Big square baler harvesting wheat straw for production of cellulosic ethanolEnlarge Photo
The overall Renewable Fuel Standards for 2012 were originally due on November 30 but delayed by nearly a month, raising the ire of industry organization the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), but the RFA responded to Wednesday’s release of the standards semi-favorably.
“EPA has not provided us a reason for the delay but that is water under the bridge,” said Matt Hardwig, RFA’s communications director. “The volumes are now final and the industry is pressing forward to develop the technologies and production volumes to satisfy all the RFS requirements with domestic renewable fuel production.”
“We will continue to work with EPA to maintain a strong and robust RFS will also looking to eliminate the incentives that right now give preference to costly imported ethanol from brazil while the US in turn exports ethanol to Brazil,” Hardwig added.
And the 2012 standards are an improvement by some measures, as the the Des Moines Register points out: “The EPA’s 8.25 million gallon target for non-corn biofuels for 2012 is actually higher than the 6.9 million gallon estimate it put out last April. The April figure, which confirmed the awareness of how slow non-corn biofuels have been to development, triggered a growing debate about the biofuels mandate.”
But “debate” may be too kind a term to describe the way the EPA, Congress and oil companies have characterized the struggling cellulosic ethanol market.
“I believe Congress shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the use of emerging technologies,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), in a statement released in August when he introduced new legislation to amend the Renewable Fuel Standards to remove the cellulosic ethanol requirement entirely.
“Our legislation is one half of the parity question,” Udall added. “Cellulosic ethanol also receives a tax credit that algae biofuel does not currently qualify for and there are similar efforts to remedy that situation in Congress.”
Meanwhile, big oil is even more upset with the standards.
Gas pumpEnlarge Photo
“The [EPA’s] cellulosic number is still conjecture-based fantasy,” Stephen Brown, VP for government affairs for refiner Tesoro Corp. told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
“Once again, EPA has acted unwisely to make a bad law worse with regulations not based on reality and science,” said Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, in a statement. “Once again, refiners are being ordered to use a substance that no one is producing in commercial quantities - cellulosic ethanol - and are being required to pay millions of dollars for failing to use this non-existent substance. This makes no sense.”
If they can’t blend enough cellulosic ethanol into their overall fuel portfolios to meet the minimum standards required by the EPA, refining companies will have to purchase offset credits from the EPA, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Renewable Fuel Standards under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandate that U.S. refineries and importing companies use a steadily increasing minimum percentage of renewable fuel in their transportation fuel every year beginning in 2006 until the country as a whole hits 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, 16 billion gallons of which is expected to come from non-corn based ethanol. But based on the EPA’s continual lowering of the standards every successive year, it is unlikely that this goal will be realized in time.
Correction: This article originally incorrectly identified the location KiOR’s facility as Columbus, Ohio, when in fact the facility is located in Columbus, Mississippi. The article also originally misidentified KiOR as a cellulosic ethanol producer, when, in fact, it produces cellulosic biofuel. The errors have since been corrected in copy and we apologize for them.
This article, written by Carl Franzen, was originally published on TalkingPointsMemo, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.