Comment period on 2017 RFS proposal closes July 11 at midnight

By Erin Voegele | July 11, 2016

The comment period on the U.S. EPA’s proposed rule to set 2017 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), along with 2018 RVOs for biomass-based diesel, closes July 11 at 11:59 p.m. ET. As of the afternoon of July 11, the website shows nearly 42,000 comments have already been filed, up from approximately 6,000 on July 1

The agency has proposed to set the 2017 RVO for cellulosic biofuel at 312 million gallons, with the advanced biofuel RVO at 4 billion gallons and the RVO for total renewable fuel at 18.8 billion gallons. The 2018 RVO for biomass-based diesel has been proposed at 2.1 billion gallons.

The Renewable Fuels Association was among the organizations that submitted comments on July 11. The RFA is urging the EPA to increase the 2017 requirement for conventional renewable fuel volumes to the statutory level of 15 billion gallons. The agency’s proposal currently calls on refiners to blend 14.8 billion gallons of conventional fuels next year. According to the RFA< record levels of E10 consumption, broader availability of E15 and E85, more than 2 billion surplus renewable identification numbers (RINs) and other factors make the statutory requirement readily achievable in 2017.

“EPA seems to be burdened by a fundamental misunderstanding of the RFS,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen in comments to EPA. “By adopting the narrative of the oil industry with regard to how much ethanol can be blended into gasoline, EPA has incomprehensibly and illegally curtailed the continued evolution occurring in the transportation fuels market that is delivering technology innovation, carbon reduction and consumer savings.”

“The agency continues to justify reducing required volumes of conventional renewable fuel by suggesting that certain ‘marketplace realities’ preclude refiners from meeting the higher statutory volumes,” Dinneen continued. “This narrative hinges upon a belief that refiners and gasoline marketers simply cannot supply higher volumes of ethanol to consumers because of a lack of infrastructure, consumer demand, or vehicles that could safely utilize fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

“This is a false premise, and turns the RFS from a technology- and market-driving program into a stagnant, backward-facing policy that sacrifices environmental and economic benefits by allowing the oil industry to determine how much biofuel it can use based upon their infrastructure and marketplace decisions,” Dinneen wrote. “RFA is strongly opposed to the proposal to reduce the 2017 RVO for undifferentiated renewable fuel from the statutory levels specified by the statute.  We encourage EPA to finalize a rule that demonstrates fidelity to the statute and truly reflects today’s marketplace realities: ethanol is providing the consumer savings, carbon reductions, and energy security benefits envisioned by Congress.”

UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, also weighed in on the RFS proposal in comments submitted July 11. “Brazilian sugarcane producers are proud of the modest but important role they play supplying the United States with clean, low-carbon renewable fuel,” said UNICA President Elizabeth Farina. “Over the past four years, nearly 1.2 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol imported from Brazil flowed into American vehicles.  During this time, sugarcane ethanol comprised only 2 oercebt of all renewable fuels consumed by Americans, but has provided one-tenth of the entire U.S. advanced biofuel supply. Our official comments make clear that with the right market conditions, Brazil has the capacity to supply the U.S. with significantly greater quantities of advanced biofuel than the 200 million gallons assumed by EPA’s 2017 proposal. EPA has the ability to stimulate the market for advanced biofuel.  We urge the agency to keep as close to the statutory volume requirements as possible and take measures to encourage the production and import of low-carbon renewable fuels, rather than discouraging these fuels by lowering their demand.”

Comments on the proposal can be filed under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0004 on the website.