Five Midwest biofuels associations sent a letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency on May 3, asking EPA to shift administrative time and staff away from dealing with demand-destroying Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) exemptions. Instead, the biofuel groups want EPA’s effort put toward pathway approvals for cellulosic ethanol.
The letter was signed by leaders of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), Renewable Fuels Nebraska, Wisconsin Biofuels Association, South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, and Illinois Renewable Fuels Association.
It highlights the disproportionate focus EPA has on approving small refinery exemptions from the RFS in contrast with their lack of urgency in approving ethanol plants’ pending applications for pathway approvals, including several applications to produce cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber.
RFS waivers are destroying ethanol demand
The biofuel associations implored EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to amend this imbalance and to expedite approvals of ways to grow and expand the RFS rather than undermine it.
“The discrepancy between the way EPA is handling RFS exemptions and the cellulosic ethanol pathway approvals tells you everything you need to know about how this EPA is treating the RFS,” says Monte Shaw, executive director of the IRFA. “The RFS exemptions are rushed through in the dead of night after, at best, a cursory review. But cellulosic ethanol approvals are stalled for months based on vague references to data concerns when the same technology was previously approved. From the outside looking in, it’s hard not to conclude that a systematic effort to undermine both the letter and the spirit of the law is emanating from the highest levels of EPA. I wish EPA would prove these concerns unfounded.”
To view the complete letter sent to Pruitt on May 3, click here.
Waivers have lowered ethanol production 6%
News reports this past week uncovered EPA records which show the agency has granted RFS waivers to dozens of oil refineries over the past couple of years. The national Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) studied the EPA’s compliance data and found that the exemptions lowered the volume obligations by at least 1.6 million gallons over the time-period. The volume lost over the last two years is 10 times greater than the collective losses from 2013-2015.
Despite receiving requests for information from ethanol industry stakeholders on the exact number of waivers, EPA hasn’t disclosed the number of waivers it has granted and how much blending volume the exemptions effectively erased.
However, the RFA analysis of the database information shows that “EPA data strongly implies that smaller refiner exemptions have effectively lowered the 2017 required volume of renewable fuels by 1.1 billion gallons, or 6%.” The RFA study also says the data shows small refiner exemptions effectively reduced the 2016 RFS requirement by 523 million gallons. “Our analysis,” says RFA president Bob Dinneen, “based on EPA’s own data, confirms our concerns and sheds light on the scope and magnitude of Administrator Pruitt’s campaign to weaken and undercut the RFS.”