It ain’t over till it’s over: Biofuels vs. Big Oil battle continues

E15The US Environmental Protection Agency’s open comment period on its proposed revisions for the Renewable Fuel Standard will close at the end of today. The public comment sessions have been heated and comprehensive, and have come from a long list of federal and state elected officials, industry association leaders, and advocacy groups. However, if I had to put money on it, I would bet that the EPA will stick to the proposal that it issued in mid-November; that’s the way it usually goes. Beyond that, the battle between the biofuels industry and “big oil” (oil companies and refineries) is likely to continue. Here’s the latest:

  • The oil industry would like to see gasoline avoid the E15 (15% ethanol) blend, along with seeing renewable identification number (RIN) credit prices dropping or going away entirely. More recently, a bigger issue seems to be the cellulosic biofuels mandate requiring oil refiners to blend a specific amount of advanced biofuels from grasses, trees, and crop waste into gasoline. The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers petitioned the EPA to reduce its target, stating that advanced biofuels producers were failing to delivery on production schedules to meet the federal target. That was the case in 2013 when the cellulosic biofuel industry could only deliver one million of the six million mandated gallons. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that her agency will reconsider its 2013 cellulosic biofuel mandate after viewing the objections raised by the oil industry.
  • A large number of US senators have called on the EPA to revise its 2014 mandate proposal. McCarthy received a letter signed by 31 senators who called on the EPA to revise its proposal to stimulate growth in next-generation biofuels and infrastructure. The letter was led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Al Franken, (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and John Thune (R-S.D.). “Without a revised proposal, the EPA’s rule will bring severe economic consequences, and prevent the growth of the renewable fuel sector,” the letter said.
  • Speaking this month at the Biodiesel Conference & Expo, National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe called on President Obama to stand tall with his support for alternative energy industries. Jobe said that “big oil” has been misleading Americans about fuel policy, and gave his perspectives on misconceptions in how Americans think about energy.  “Strong government policy support along with a unique spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking are the primary reasons that so many major modern industries had their start in America,” Jobe said.
  • Fuel stations are rolling out more E15, regardless of where the federal policy goes. MAPCO Express Inc. will be offering E15 at 100 of its mega stores in the Southeast.  American Freedom Energy has become the first retailer in Ohio to offer the E15 blend at its pumps. Seeing retailers like American Freedom Energy, MAPCO, Murphy Oil, and Minnoco offering E15 continues to make the case for the fuel blend, says Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “When given the choice, consumers will seek the fuel that costs less, improves the performance of their vehicles and is better for our environment,” Buis said.

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