By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
After a controversial decision issued in August to exempt some small petroleum refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the Trump administration announced Oct. 4 that it will propose expansions to biofuel blending requirements beginning in 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will propose actions that would ensure that more than 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol are blended into the nation’s fuel supply beginning in 2020, and that the volume obligation for biomass-based diesel is met. “This will include accounting for relief expected to be provided for small refineries,” EPA said. The agency said it will propose accounting for small-refinery exemptions starting in 2020 with a three-year rolling average of volumes waived. The proposal will not account for prior-year waivers already granted to small refiners, an EPA official said.
The agency also said it will initiate another rulemaking process to streamline labeling and remove other barriers to the sale of E15 nationally.
For its part, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it will consider more infrastructure projects, including installation of blender pumps at retail outlets, to facilitate the sale of higher biofuel blends.
EPA granted 31 small refiners’ exemptions amounting to 1.4 billion gallons from the RFS in August, which spurred outcry from Iowa lawmakers and other ethanol producing states. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says waivers issued under the Trump administration have reduced demand for biofuels by more than 4 billion gallons.
President Trump campaigned on pledges to support the RFS and ethanol production and has authorized year-round sales of E15 gasoline during his presidency. But the small refinery exemptions led to negotiations between the administration, farm-state lawmakers and industry representatives.
NCGA President Kevin Ross commended the administration for its latest announcement to support ethanol production. “Corn farmers weren’t shy in telling the president that the impact of these waivers would lead to significant consequences for farmers, folks working at ethanol and biodiesel plants, and the countless other rural jobs that depend on this market,” he said in an Oct. 4 statement. “The president is finally telling the EPA that enough is enough, they must follow the law, and we appreciate that.”
Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, both Republicans from Iowa, issued media statements praising the president for “listen(ing) to the concerns of farmers and biofuels producers.”
EPA said it will begin accepting public comments on its proposed expanded biofuel requirements in the coming months, and will take a final action this year to increase domestic ethanol utilization in 2020. EPA also said it will work to provide more transparency for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS), the credits used by the petroleum industry to provide compliance with the RFS. RIN prices have declined significantly over the past two years, and did so precipitously after EPA announced its latest small-refinery waivers in August.
“Today’s agreement is the latest in a series of steps we have taken to expand domestic energy production and improve the RFS program that will result in sustained biofuel production to help American farmers,” said EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler in the announcement.