Obama administration sets new biofuels requirements. Sen. David Vitter wants next year's standards w

08 07, 2013 by The Times-Picayune

The Obama Administration on Tuesday set new parameters for mixing renewable biofuels into conventional gasoline and promised "to use flexibilities" under the Renewable Fuel Standards law next year when producers say required ethanol mixes will be unsuitable for many cars.,

The final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply (a 9.74 percent blend, using mostly ethanol. The requirements, released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, are eight months late. But EPA is giving refiners an extra four months to meet the new blend standards, with a new deadline of June 30, 2014.

EPA said the use of ethanol and other biofuels reduces carbon emissions and U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La, top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, reiterated a call, first made last week, for EPA to waive the 2014 biofuels requirements.

"The premise and structure of the RFS were based on many assumptions that aren't realistic with current market conditions," Vitter said. "The EPA has finally realized that there is a major problem with the RFS -- the ethanol blend wall -- but punted on fixing the problem this year."
In its announcement, EPA said it had responded to industry concerns while continuing a program that enhances energy security and reduces carbon emissions linked to global warming.

As an example of the flexibility, EPA said it had reduced a requirement for non-food based cellulosic ethanol production this year from an initial proposal of 14 million gallons to six millions gallons. Cellulosic fuels are produced from wood, grasses, or inedible parts of plants.

The American Petroleum Institute said the EPA missed an opportunity to fix a problem close at hand -- when required ethanol mixes will become unsuitable for many automobiles.

"While the administration acknowledges that higher ethanol mandates are unworkable by suggesting a new approach for the 2014 standards, EPA missed an opportunity to fix the problem this year, said API President and CEO Jack Gerard. "Now it's up to Congress to exercise leadership and move quickly to end this dangerous mandate before it hurts consumers, damages vehicles, and harms our economy."

The Union of Concerned Scientists expressed disappointment that EPA delayed requirements for more non food-based biofuels.

Markets for corn, sugar and vegetable oil are tight and thus any expansion of mandates for food-based biofuels will put pressure on food prices, forcing the expansion of agricultural land into forested areas, the scientists said.

"We have a responsibility to ensure we move towards cleaner fuels that won't strain food supplies, accelerate agricultural expansion and drive deforestation," said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist with UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "The agency should revisit the overall mandate structure and set reasonable targets for the duration of the program -- not just one year's worth -- to ensure we are meeting that responsibility."