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EPA releases proposed 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard volumes

Published on 19 November 2013

On Nov. 15, the EPA proposed to lower the total 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumetric requirement from the 18.15 billion gallons specified by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to 15.21 billion gallons.

The original mandate requires 14.4 billion gallons conventional biofuels (corn-based ethanol), plus 3.8 billion gallons advanced biofuels for 2014. Under the new 2014 proposal, 13 billion gallons would come from conventional biofuels and 2.2 billion gallons from advanced biofuels.

The target goal of the EISA 2007 was 36 billion gallons total renewable fuels in transportation fuel by 2022. The numbers consist of four nested volumetric targets for specific types of biofuels: unspecified biofuels, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuels and "other advanced biofuels."

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Because production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years and gasoline consumption has dropped far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007, we're now facing the “E10 blend wall,” the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol.

According to an article by Geoffrey Styles for the Christian Science Monitor, "blending more than 10 percent ethanol in gasoline creates serious risks for the U.S.’s 500 million existing gasoline engines, large and small. The scale of corn diversion necessary to go beyond 10 percent is also distorting the U.S. agricultural economy and food value chain."

Earlier this year, updated market projections led the EPA to reduce 2013 requirements for cellulosic biofuels to 6 million gallons, less than half the level in the proposed rule issued in February 2013. Yet the total renewable target volume for 2013, combining advanced biofuels and conventional biofuels, remained the same as the 16.55 billion gallons specified in EISA 2007.

The new 2014 proposal represents a compromise between those calling for repeal of the law and those in favor of continuing to improve biofuel technology with the help of mandates.

Also on Nov. 15, in a separate action, the EPA announced it is seeking comment on petitions for a waiver of the renewable fuel standards that would apply in 2014. EPA expects that a determination on the substance of the petitions will be issued at the same time that EPA issues a final rule establishing the 2014 RFS.

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Once an EPA proposal is published in the Federal Register, it is open to a 60-day public comment period. PD

—Compiled by PD staff from cited and additional sources

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