The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on November 21 that it will delay finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuels Standard until 2015. The final volumes for 2014 were supposed to be announced a year ago—by November 30, 2013. EPA instead proposed lower 2014 volumes last November, which were then subsequently involved in a public comment period and lengthy review process. The final RFS volumes that EPA is by law supposed to set for each year, mandate the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply for the coming year.
Following the comment period, the proposal for the 2014 RFS amounts was shipped through a 90 day review at the White House Office of Management and Budget in August, which is now nearing its end.
EPA uncertainty continues to hurt entire renewable fuels industry
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey issued the following statement regarding the announcement by EPA that the agency would delay finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) until 2015. A copy of EPA's announcement can be found here.
"It is good news that the EPA has withdrawn the misguided rule they proposed last year and has now responded to the thousands of public comments opposing EPA's efforts to undermine the RFS. Unfortunately, the ongoing uncertainty continues to hurt the entire renewable fuels industry.
"The past year has been an exciting time in the renewable fuels industry with the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plants coming online. However, we have missed opportunities for even more growth in the industry due to the uncertainty created by EPA's initial RFS proposal. Hopefully the withdrawal of this proposed rule signals a larger change in course within EPA where they will be less adversarial and more responsive to the concerns of rural America."
RFS reprieve is mixed news for farmers, biofuel producers
The Iowa Corn Growers Association says the November 21 announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency amounts to another non-decision on a high-priority issue that impacts Iowa farmers and America's economy.
EPA yesterday said it will not be finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard volumes before the end of the year. The RFS, a law enacted by Congress in 2005 and updated in 2007, requires oil companies to provide consumers access to renewable fuels, like ethanol, on a volume-based percentage, compared to petroleum-based products.
"Last year, EPA proposed changing the methodology for calculating the RFS, even though Congress had put very clear instructions into the law," says Iowa Corn Growers Association president Jerry Mohr, who farms near Eldridge. Mohr says the positive part about EPA's latest announcement is that it leaves the 2013 methodology for calculating the RFS in place. The Iowa and National Corn Growers Associations had opposed EPA's efforts to the proposed 2014 changes in methodology, because the changes would have restricted consumers' access to choosing ethanol at the pump.
EPA officials knew their 2014 proposal was unworkable
"EPA's latest announcement shows that even they, the agency officials themselves, knew their 2014 proposal was unworkable. But it also creates more uncertainty for Iowa corn farmers and those who produce essential renewable fuels like ethanol from corn," Mohr says. "At a time when Iowa farmers are producing back-to-back record corn crops, we need EPA to uphold the law passed by Congress, to increase access to clean, renewable fuels like ethanol and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."
According to the Renewable Fuels Association, America's renewable fuel production has more than tripled since the bipartisan RFS went into effect in 2005, reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil to its lowest level in more than 25 years, and building a homegrown industry that supports more than 850,000 American workers.
"Because renewable fuels create a value-added market for corn, the Iowa Corn Growers Association has vigorously supported the Renewable Fuels Standard as a high priority for years," Mohr adds. "Renewable fuels like ethanol reduce our dependence on foreign oil and are essential to the health of Iowa's rural economy, and to meet the fuel needs of consumers across the nation."
Corn growers opposed EPA's proposed rule over the past year
Members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association have championed grassroots support for the RFS, communicating with elected officials, regulators and policy makers across the country, and rallying thousands of letters of support to the Obama Administration and members of Congress from Iowa corn farmers. Now, EPA has announced it will not be finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard volumes before the end of this year.
"ICGA and the National Corn Growers Association partnered with the ethanol industry to oppose the EPA's proposed rule over the past year," says Don Mason, director of grower services for ICGA. "Our members showed strong support for the RFS. Their efforts made a difference. Even EPA realized that its 2014 proposal was flawed and simply unworkable."
"Even though the November 21 EPA decision didn't set us back, the battle is not over," says Mason. "We still have a great deal of work to do to rally essential support our industry. We still must get the message through to the Administration and Congress that the RFS is absolutely essential, to fuel America, and the rural economy."
Ethanol under pressure, Big Oil wants to eliminate the RFS
Mason sent a letter to all ICGA members on Friday after the EPA announcement, thanking corn growers "for your outstanding support of ICGA, as we work together to defend and expand markets for corn, through our support for key issues like renewable fuels and the RFS."
Ethanol is under pressure from big oil interests who have called for the elimination of the RFS. "We simply can't and won't let that happen," says Mason. "That's why as an effective grassroots organization, ICGA is working hard to get our message through to EPA, Congress and the White House about the essential need for clarity, certainty and consistency in the RFS."
He adds, "At ICGA, we've made support of the RFS a high priority for many years. We thank our members for all they've done to help. Because of their grassroots efforts and response to our calls-to-action, the Iowa corn farmer's voice has been heard loud and clear on this issue— in Congress, at the EPA and at the Administration on why the Renewable Fuels Standard is essential for your farm, the rural economy and America's need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. ICGA directly and effectively conveyed our positions directly to U.S. Vice-President Biden, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow, and EPA Administrator McCarthy. And we're continuing to have conversations with those people whose decisions impact the RFS and our industry."
Iowa Soybean Association reaction to EPA's decision to delay
Iowa Soybean Association president Tom Oswald, who farms near Cleghorn, issued the following statement concerning the announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it will delay finalizing the 2014 RFS until sometime next year.
"A delay is better than making an ill-advised decision. However, kicking the can down the road couldn't come at a worse time for Iowa's soybean farmers given record production and tightening margins. Inaction in Washington, D.C., has negative consequences for biodiesel producers and farmers across the state.
"The EPA's decision creates more uncertainty in the biodiesel industry, which discourages investment and expansion. Biodiesel production in Iowa, the nation's leader, is down as a result. That costs jobs and hurts the state's economy. Soybean oil is a primary feed stock in biodiesel, and limiting markets has curtailed prices at a time when margins are already razor thin or nonexistent."