The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched the comment period for the Renewable Fuel Standard’s proposed 2018 levels for conventional (corn) ethanol and advanced biofuels, and the 2019 level for biodiesel. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association is calling on all biofuels supporters to participate and has launched an online portal to make it easier to be heard.
“The good news with this proposed rule is President Trump kept his promise to protect corn ethanol by maintaining the 15 billion-gallon statutory level,” says IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “But we are by no means taking that for granted. Big Oil will be fighting to lower the corn ethanol number in the final rule, so we need to flood the EPA with supportive comments now.
“And we must fight to raise the biodiesel level,” Shaw adds. “The proposal to flatline biodiesel at 2.1 billion gallons is far below the 2.9 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel consumed in 2016. With many Iowa plants running below capacity, there is no doubt the U.S. biodiesel industry can easily outproduce the current proposal.”
Sign petition supporting ethanol, biodiesel
Renewable fuels advocates, farmers and motorists wishing to sign a petition supporting ethanol or biodiesel can go to iowarfa.org/rfs. The RFS comment period sunsets on Aug. 31.
Iowa farm leaders and state officials mostly cheered the Trump administration’s proposed renewable fuel production targets when they were released July 5, saying the proposed standards are the first big test of the president’s commitment to ethanol and biodiesel. The RFS for conventional ethanol, typically made from corn, is proposed to be kept at 15 billion gallons for 2018. But farm, industry and political leaders say the biodiesel and the next-generation cellulosic ethanol goals are weak.
The RFS became law with passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels each year. EPA’s proposed RFS volume numbers for ethanol and biodiesel are announced annually. EPA then considers the comments it gets during the public comment period and announces the final RFS targets by the end of November.
EPA’s proposal mixed bag for farm states
“The petroleum industry was making a big push to get President Trump to walk back his campaign commitment to corn ethanol,” says Shaw. “But at least on the corn side of the RFS, he did uphold his promises.” On July 5, EPA issued proposed RFS volume requirements for total renewable fuel, cellulosic biofuel and advanced biofuel for 2018, and a proposed volume requirement for biodiesel for 2019:
• EPA proposes to keep the conventional ethanol (made from corn grain) of 15 billion gallons the same in 2018.
• EPA proposes no increase in the biodiesel requirement of 2.1 billion gallons between 2018 and 2019.
• EPA proposes decreases in cellulosic biofuel requirement from 311 million to 238 million gallons and the advanced biofuel requirement from 4.28 billion to 4.24 billion gallons in 2018.
Reaction from Iowa leaders reflects both the good numbers and the disappointing numbers in EPA’s proposal. “The EPA’s proposed renewable volume obligations under the RFS program is a mixed bag,” says Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “While I’m glad the EPA’s proposal holds steady the requirement of 15 billion gallons for conventional ethanol, the lack of any increase for biodiesel is a missed opportunity.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, adds, “While I’m pleased the new administration has set proposed volume requirements for conventional ethanol for 2018 at congressionally approved levels, I’m disappointed the 2019 biodiesel number was held constant. I’d like to see it more accurately reflect current domestic usage.”
No state is impacted by the RFS rules more than Iowa, the No. 1 producer of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation. “Stability and expansion within the industry is not only important to the future of agriculture in states like Iowa, but to the future of America. Biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduces dependence on foreign oil,” Ernst says. “We urge farmers and all supporters of renewable fuels to tell EPA to increase cellulosic and advanced biofuels targets in the RFS for 2018 and for biobased biodiesel in 2019.”