EPA boosts biofuels target amid oil-and-gas industry resistance

“This action, which meets goals designated by Congress, is another step that strengthens America’s energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Friday in a statement.

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lauded the increased mark as a way to promote rural jobs.

“Over the past three years, we have doubled generation from renewable energy and today's announcement by EPA will ensure that we are continuing to utilize biodiesel to help meet our energy needs, create jobs and strengthen the rural economy,” Vilsack said.

Advanced biofuels are considered fuel sources made from non-edible food stocks. Currently, an overwhelming majority of the biofuels market is made up of corn-based ethanol.

The advanced biofuels quota is part of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). That rule, which was enacted by law in 2005 and updated to include advanced biofuels in 2007, is credited with jumpstarting the biofuels industry.

But advanced biofuels have struggled to reach commercial-scale production. That has led the American Petroleum Institute (API) to sue EPA over the RFS mandate, claiming the agency pinned advanced biofuels targets on unrealistic market conditions.

“EPA’s mandate will unnecessarily raise the cost of making diesel fuel. This is bad public policy that could burden consumers and businesses already pressed with higher energy costs,” Bob Greco, API's downstream group director, said Friday in a statement. “By picking energy winners and losers, EPA takes away consumer choice and further threatens public acceptance of biofuels.”

Republicans have begun to criticize the RFS for similar reasons. They say the federal government is propping up a biofuels industry that could not survive on its own in the marketplace.

The RFS requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into traditional transportation fuel by 2022. Of that total, 21 billion gallons must come from advanced biofuels.