EPA proposes cutting biofuels mandate for 2018

EPA proposes cutting biofuels mandate for 2018
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing lower biofuel quotas in 2018 than those currently on the books and required by federal law.

Officials on Wednesday released their proposed 2018 biofuel requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates how much ethanol and other biofuels refiners are required to be mixed into the gasoline and diesel fuel supplies.

The proposal would require refiners use 19.24 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2018, slightly down from the 19.28 billion gallons required in 2017 and about 25 percent lower than the target Congress outlined in 2007. The RFS statue envisions blending 26 billion gallons of biofuel into the fuel supply in 2018.

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EPA’s proposal maintains the 2017 blending requirements for both conventional, corned-based ethanol (15 billion gallons) and biomass diesel (2.1 billion gallons), but it lowers targets for cellulosic and advanced biofuels.

In a statement, the agency said it was proposing “volumes consistent with market realities.”

“Timely implementation provides certainty to American refiners, the agriculture community and broader fuels industry, all of which play an important role in the RFS program,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

Biofuel groups on Wednesday said they supported the EPA’s 2018 target for corn-based ethanol, but urged the agency to boost the mandate for other biofuels.

“While we are pleased with the EPA and administration’s commitment to a 15-billion-gallon target for conventional biofuels, we would like to see final levels for cellulosic and advanced biofuels continue to give producers and stakeholders certainty in their investment in second generation technology,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement.

The Renewable Fuels Association said the goals mean “consumers will continue to benefit from the policy, including a greater choice at the pump, while breathing cleaner air and seeing a boost to local economies.”

But the National Biodiesel Board said the proposal “continues to underestimate the ability of the biomass-based diesel industry to meet the volumes of the RFS program.”

The biofuels industry has long pushed the EPA to set higher standards for biofuel blending, though the agency has traditionally lagged behind the levels envisioned in a 2007 law passed by Congress.

The 2017 blending requirements set by the EPA last year were a record high, but still missed the overall statuary levels by more than 4.5 billion gallons.

The EPA's targets for corn-based ethanol fuel, both in 2017 and now in 2018, are in line with the levels outlined in the RFS law. Ethanol levels are due to hold steady while other volumes of other biofuels grow in the years ahead.

The oil and refining industries traditionally oppose expanding biofuel volumes under the RFS, arguing the industry’s environmental benefits are overstated and that they’re already blending as much biofuel into the fuel supply as they can.

The EPA is due to finalize its biofuel requirements later this year.