Oil industry files second lawsuit over RFS mandates

By Kris Bevill | June 12, 2012

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (formerly the National Petroleum Refiners Association) and the Western States Petroleum Association filed a lawsuit with the District of Columbia Circuit Court on June 11, challenging the U.S. EPA’s 2011 cellulosic biofuel volume mandate as part of the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

According to the groups, because no cellulosic biofuel was available during that timeframe, refiners were unfairly forced to buy cellulosic biofuel credits as a replacement in order to comply with the RFS requirements. The groups had previously filed a waiver request with the EPA asking it to reconsider its 6.6 million cellulosic biofuel volume requirement for 2011, basing the request on lack of actual available gallons of cellulosic biofuels. The EPA formally denied that request in a letter dated May 22, which spurred AFPM and the WSPA to file the lawsuit and accuse the agency of waging war against the fossil fuel industry.

“Someday cellulosic fuel may be available and may even be cost-effective, but today the fuel doesn’t exist,” AFPM President Charles Drevna said in a statement. “EPA’s denial of this waiver request is in poor judgment and a perfect example of the agency’s continuing war on fossil fuels. “The requirement to blend cellulosic biofuels that do not currently exist – and will not be available in the immediate future – in any form that satisfies EPA’s phantom fuel requirements, let alone the quantities mandated by the RFA program, is one of many examples of how the RFS is broken. Congress should repeal the RFS and embrace a more holistic approach to biofuels; American consumers deserve better from their government.”

The oil industry has been ramping up its efforts to modify or eliminate the RFS in recent months as it becomes apparent that the mandate is reducing demand for fossil fuels as planned and will continue to do so as biofuel mandates increase and the U.S. gasoline pool shrinks due to increased fuel economy standards. Earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute filed a lawsuit against the EPA challenging its 2012 cellulosic biofuel mandate. At the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo held recently in Minneapolis, ethanol industry leaders repeatedly pointed out the critical role the RFS plays in advancing the biofuels industry and warned industry members to prepare for an aggressive policy attack from oil groups.