US Senate Republicans aim to reform EPA cellulosic biofuel rule

Three US Senate Republicans introduced legislation to force the US Environmental Protection Agency to base annual cellulosic biofuel quotas on actual available production instead of projected estimates.

S 251, which Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and David Vitter (La.) offered on Feb. 7, followed a similar measure that House Energy and Commerce Committee members Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced on Feb. 6.

Crapo said that current law and annual EPA estimates require US refiners to blend millions of gallons of cellulosic biofuel into US fuel supplies, even if it’s not being produced.

Only 1,024 gal of product that could have been used to meet the cellulosic biofuel mandate were produced in 2012, he noted. Yet in 2013, EPA is requiring 14 million gal to be blended, which is almost double the 8.65 million gal initially required in 2012, Crapo said.

“Requiring industry to use millions of gallons of a substance that does not exist and in turn fining them for noncompliance is irrational and unfair,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed 2013 biofuels quotas representing more than 1.35 billion gal from what it mandated for 2012 (OGJ Online, Feb. 1, 2013).

Industry reacts

American Petroleum Institute and American Fuels & Petrochemical Manufacturers executives endorsed goals of the bills.

“EPA’s mandate for nonexistent biofuels is effectively a tax on making gasoline that could ultimately burden consumers,” said Bob Greco, API’s downstream group director.

“The agency is directed by Congress and a recent DC Circuit Court order to set the fuel requirement at a realistic volume,” he explained. “But EPA continues to set absurd mandates based on production promises by biofuel producers that disappoint year after year. This is bad public policy, and it’s time for Congress to step in and put a stop to it.”

ADPM President Charles T. Drevna said the organization is grateful to the bills’ sponsors for recognizing that this nonsensical mandate forces refiners to pay for fuels that do not exist.

“EPA’s actions make clear that only legislative remedies will constrain the agency’s haphazard and irresponsible implementation of this unworkable mandate,” he declared. “This bill highlights and would solve just one of the many inherent problems with the [Renewable Fuel Standard], and magnifies the need for Congress to repeal an unnecessary and costly law.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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