US biofuel rules seek compromise, but industries vow fight

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EPA proposes lowering requirements for ethanol in gasoline.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa leaders are criticizing a proposal from the Obama administration that would reduce the amount of ethanol blended in U.S. gasoline.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which can adjust mandates set out in the 2007 renewable fuels law, on Friday proposed easing the annual requirements for ethanol in gasoline. The EPA’s blend proposal gradually increases the gallons required, but not as dramatically as the 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act had originally envisioned for the renewable fuel standard. The proposed requirements cover the years 2014, 2015 and 2016. (The requirements for 2014 are retroactive, reflecting the amounts actually used that year, since the proposed amounts had been repeatedly delayed.) Going forward, the proposal would increase the required amount of cellulosic biofuels — fuels produced from wood, grasses or waste portions of plants — from 33 million gallons used in 2014 to 106 million by 2015 and 206 million gallons by 2016. Terry Branstad — who has lobbied aggressively for maintaining a strong standard — says in a statement that he was disappointed, but noted that the EPA made slight increases from a previous proposal.

Groups like the Environmental Working Group have criticized the requirements for continuing to increase the use of corn ethanol, which the group argues actually increases lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed standards also represent a blow to renewable fuel companies, which have pushed to keep high volumes of their product flowing into drivers’ gas tanks.

Next-generation biofuels, made from agricultural waste such as wood chips and corncobs, have not taken off as quickly as Congress required and the administration expected. David Vitter (R-La.) called them “unrealistic.” Nor did the EPA’s announcement please the corn industry. “Once again, the EPA has chosen to ignore the law by cutting the corn ethanol obligation 3.75 billion gallons from 2014 to 2016. EPA officials said the new requirements would drive growth at an “ambitious but responsible” rate. “We believe these proposed volume requirements will provide a strong incentive for continued investment and growth in biofuels,” said Janet McCabe, who heads the EPA’s renewable fuel program. Oil companies say they would prefer that the market determine how much ethanol is blended into their gas. “It is unfortunate that EPA chose to side with the obligated parties, who have deliberately refused to live up to their obligation to provide consumers with a choice of fossil fuels or lower-cost, higher-performing, homegrown renewable energy at the pump,” Buis said. In a bid to ethanol producers, the administration also announced Friday that the Agriculture Department will invest up to $100 million to help improve infrastructure for delivering ethanol to cars, such as fuel pumps capable of supplying higher blends of renewable fuel.

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