Reps ask EPA about renewable fuel challenges

Four members of the House who want the renewable fuel standard (RFS) to be lowered wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ask what problems the agency has faced in writing regulations for the RFS.

The representatives asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday whether the agency considers the effect that corn-based ethanol mandates have on food supplies, the infrastructure limitations of producing renewable fuels and the “blend wall” that limits the volume of renewable fuels refiners can put in their gasoline and diesel before the fuels are unusable.

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“Despite the best intentions, the RFS’s premise and structure were based on many assumptions that no longer reflect the current market conditions, and the imposition of the statutory volumes will cause further economic and environmental harm,” Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) wrote in the letter.

They also asked McCarthy why her agency frequently misses the Nov. 30 deadline to finalize renewable fuel levels for the coming year, a common frustration among fuel refiners.

In its proposal last year for the 2014 RFS mandate levels, the EPA sought to lower volumes from 2013. The members who wrote to McCarthy applauded that proposal and encouraged EPA to make it final.

But they also want to know why the EPA chose to take that path and why it didn’t propose lower limits in previous years, when most of the same challenges were also present.

Those representatives have also sponsored a bill to reform the RFS by eliminated corn-based ethanol requirements, capping the amount of ethanol that can go into gasoline and setting the cellulosic biofuel mandate at production levels.