ACORE webinar features biofuel policy update

By Erin Voegele | November 14, 2012

The American Council on Renewable Energy hosted a webinar on Nov. 14 focused on biofuel policy. The seminar, titled “Beyond the Talking Points: The Truth About Biofuels,” featured speakers who discussed the status of tax incentive extensions, the renewable fuel standard (RFS), flex-fuel vehicles, infrastructure, industry accomplishments, and several other issues.

Todd Foley, senior vice president of policy and government relations at ACORE, opened the call with a brief legislative update. The most important political issue right now, he said, is the impending “fiscal cliffs,” which does impact the renewable energy agenda. According to Foley, that cliff was set up by design in order to force the power center of Washington, D.C., to come together and address the deficit in a bipartisan way. The lame duck session, which kicked off Nov. 13, is expected to be primarily focused on this issue.

How the fiscal cliff issue is dealt with is likely to have a significant impact on tax extenders for the biofuels and renewable energy industries. Most agree that if the president and Congress are successful in addressing the fiscal cliff, it will pave the way to extend renewable energy tax credits, Foley said. Some of these credits include the alternative fuel vehicle refueling credit, the production tax credit for cellulosic biofuels, the biodiesel blenders credit and the special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property.

Foley also touched on challenges to the RFS. The U.S. EPA is expected to make a decision on the RFS waiver request any day, he said, noting that it seems likely the agency will reject the waiver. Beyond the immediate waiver request, Foley said that there has been some talk of modifying, reforming or even repealing the RFS. Based on the outcome of the election, that’s not likely to happen, he continued. Although, it is likely that there will be some proposals and hearings developed around the issue.

The issue of the ethanol blend wall and the need to expand market opportunity for ethanol was also addressed during the webinar. According to C. Boyden Gray of Boyden Gray & Associates, the need for higher octane levels is one way that more ethanol could find its way into the U.S. market. He also noted that under law the EPA is supposed to phase out the use of certain toxic substances, although it has so far failed to do so. Ethanol’s ability to substitute for aromatics, such as benzene, could be a route for EPA to certify mid-level ethanol blends, such as E30 or E40, he said.

During his presentation, Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, focused on the accomplishments the advanced biofuel sector has celebrated over the past 18 months. We’re already making the fuels—plenty of them—and plenty more are on the way, he said. McAdams also stressed that there is nothing certain in politics, expect the fact that all these issues related to renewable energy and biofuels will continued to be debated.