Energy & Environment — EPA releases final biofuel volumes, rejects waivers
The EPA’s new biofuel requirements are a mixed bag for industry, the EU finalizes its Russian oil embargo and climate hawks look for their last chance to get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on board.
EPA delivers mixed results on biofuels blending
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday finalized biofuels requirements — with mixed results for the ethanol and oil industries.
- The EPA’s finalized volumes for 2022 would require a significant amount of biofuels like ethanol, which comes from corn, to be blended into gasoline.
- The agency also separately rejected requests from refiners for exemptions to blending requirements.
Big picture: The actions are a win for biofuels producers and a blow to the oil industry.
There’s always a but: The agency also handed a win to the oil industry by setting standards for 2020 and 2021 to be in line with actual usage during those years.
- The 2020 standard was particularly remarkable because the agency went back and changed a more stringent standard that was previously established.
- The change to the 2020 standard is expected to return blending credits to refiners, who could cash them in later in order to blend less ethanol into their gasoline in the future.
Takeaway: Geoff Cooper, the president and CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association, described the announcements as an overall win for biofuels.
EU officially adopts Russian oil embargo
The European Union (EU) on Friday formally adopted a sanctions package banning oil imports from Russia in response to its February invasion of Ukraine.
What it means: The sanctions package, the sixth imposed by the EU thus far, will phase out imports of Russian crude oil by sea over the next six months and refined petroleum imports over eight months.
- Keep in mind: The EU imported about $51.5 billion in crude from Russia and $24.7 billion in refined products in 2021.
Some exceptions apply: In the announcement, the EU said the package would include a temporary exemption for European nations with a “particular pipeline dependency” on Russia, allowing them to continue receiving crude oil by pipeline in the meantime.
- Worth noting: Exempt states would still be restricted from reselling crude or refined oil to third parties or other European states.
- Bulgaria will specifically be permitted to import crude oil and petroleum products by sea through the end of 2024 due to its “specific geographical exposure.”
- And Croatia will be allowed to continue importing the Russian vacuum gas oil necessary for its refinery operations until the end of 2023.
The sanctions will also bar operators within the EU from financing or insuring transportation of Russian oil to third-party countries.
What they’re saying: “This will make it particularly difficult for Russia to continue exporting its crude oil and petroleum products to the rest of the world since EU operators are important providers of such services,” the European Council said in a statement.
How we got here: European Council President Ursula von der Leyen proposed the ban in May after the U.S., which is less reliant on Russian oil, had announced a similar embargo. On Monday, EU leaders reached an agreement on the embargo, sending the sanctions package to the 27 member states to be legally endorsed.
ONE LAST PITCH
Democrats and Republicans are competing for Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) attention over what elements of President Biden’s agenda are still in play ahead of the midterm elections, knowing full well Washington will soon move into full-time campaign mode.
While Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is attempting to get Manchin on board with climate change and lower prescription drug price proposals, GOP lawmakers are trying to divert Manchin’s attention toward bipartisan negotiations on gun control and energy legislation — anything to keep the pivotal senator out of the New York Democrat’s office as much as possible.
- State of play: Schumer is privately trying to negotiate with Manchin on a budget bill that addresses climate change and lowers prescription drug prices, all while anti-tax activists are running ads in West Virginia pressing Manchin to reject proposed fiscal increases to fund such Democratic priorities.
- A rush: “If he gets something within the parameters as he’s discussed it, I think he is a possible ‘yes,’” said Mike Plante, a West Virginia-based Democratic strategist, who noted: “Obviously we’re running out of time here.”
A caveat: Plante cautioned that Manchin has set out strict parameters for what kind of package he can support, emphasizing it must reduce the deficit.
“I think there’s a very narrow path on that. It would have to be something that dealt with prescription drugs, climate, deficit reduction, and didn’t contribute to inflation,” he said.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is made up of both lawmakers and administration officials, will hold a hearing titled “European Energy Security Post-Russia.”
- The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee will hold a hearing on drought resilience on forests and farmlands
- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on detecting methane from the oil and gas sector
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on two nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- State Department energy security adviser Amos Hochstein will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a hearing on European energy security
- Forest Service Chief Randy Moore will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on his agency’s budget
- NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad and State Department official Monica Medina will appear before the House Climate Crisis committee to discuss oceans
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on bill to prohibit asbestos manufacturing processing and distribution
WHAT WE’RE READING
- White House climate office draws fire as actions stall (Politico)
- Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History (The New York Times)
- Brazil’s Bolsonaro appears to be taking a tougher stance on protecting the environment. Critics say it’s just lip service (CNN)
- California drought resurrects decades-old plan for controversial Sites Reservoir (The Los Angeles Times)
- Detroit steel coke producer faces federal air pollution lawsuit (MLive)
And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Too cougar for school.
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.
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