Renewable fuels groups and pro-renewable fuel legislators this week are ramping up support for the Renewable Fuel Standard ahead of EPA's required renewable volume obligation announcement on or before June 1.
EPA said earlier this year it would release RVOs for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by June 1, following significant backlash for previous missed deadlines. In 2013, EPA was nine months late in issuing the renewable volume obligations and more than 17 months late in issuing the 2014 rule.
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Reps. Dave Loebsack, Steve King, David Young, and Rod Blum – Iowa's entire delegation – on Wednesday urged the EPA to retain RVO levels "consistent with Congress' intent when the RFS became law."
"Farmers and biofuels producers have done their part. The EPA needs to do its part," Grassley said. "The levels ought to reflect the reality of what can be accomplished in an unbiased way. That's what the law requires, and that's what consumers who want fuel choices deserve."
As part of the push before RVO release, Fuels America is releasing a print ad campaign in the New York Times this week that focuses on "EPA's choice" – oil profits or rural America.
"The choice comes down to this -- reward the oil industry for refusing to fulfill its obligations under the policy, or get the RFS back on track by following the spirit and intent of the law," Fuels America's campaign says. "Instead of arriving at a rule that is based on the renewable fuel industry’s ability to supply fuel to consumers as Congress intended, oil companies would have the EPA block competition from renewable fuel on the oil industry’s behalf."
The 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard RVO proposal was lower than initial targets, suggesting ranges of volumes rather than specific figures and citing concerns about the E10 "blend wall." The agency explained the blend wall as a market saturation of 10% ethanol due to falling gasoline consumption and thus, inability to blend ethanol into the available fuel supply without raising blend levels.
The proposal marked a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in how much corn ethanol would be required under the RFS – from 16.5 billion gallons in 2013 to 15.2 in 2014.
The lower volumes concerned corn and renewables groups and kicked off a lengthy comment period. Because final volumes have not been announced, ethanol-supporting groups said the entire industry has been unsure if investments in infrastructure and other production costs are prudent.
EPA's sluggishness, groups say, has cost the industry not only funding but also jobs, coming at a time when commercial cellulosic ethanol was breaking into the market and biodiesel plants were under construction.
According to an analysis by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, RFS uncertainty since 2013 has frozen $13.7 billion in biofuels investment.