Court vacates 2012 RFS cellulosic biofuel volumes

By Erin Voegele | January 25, 2013

The D.C. Circuit court has issued a narrow, but mixed decision, striking down the 2012 cellulosic biofuel volume requirement under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), but affirming the 2012 volume standard for advanced biofuels. However the court also rejected several arguments that aim to dismantle the RFS.

“Although we disagree with the court’s decision vacating the 2012 cellulosic volumes, today’s decision once again rejects broad-brushed attempts to effectively roll back the federal renewable fuel standard,” said Growth Energy , Renewable Fuels Association, the Advanced Biofuels Association, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the American Coalition for Ethanol and Biotechnology Industry Organization in a statement.

The biofuel groups further noted that while the court vacated the cellulosic standard, it also rejected the American Petroleum Institute’s argument that the U.S. EPA should be required to follow projections made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration when setting its own.

The six organizations, who had intervened in the litigation, also said that the court rejected API’s argument that EPA was not entitled to consider information from cellulosic biofuel producers when setting its standards. Rather the court said that producers are an “almost inevitable source of information,” for the agency.

According to the biofuel groups, these decisions will give EPA flexibility in setting cellulosic biofuel standards in the future.

The reason the court vacated the 2012 cellulosic standards is that it believed that EPA had impermissibly set the volume requirements with the goal of promoting growth in the industry, rather than making an accurate predictions. However, under the court’s decision, the EPA is free to reinstate the volumes it had established, so long as the information available at the time would support the agency’s conclusion that those volumes were reasonably achievable.

The API welcomed the court’s decision. API Group Downstream Director Bob Greco called it a “confirmation that EPA”s renewable fuels program is unworkable and must be scrapped.”

“We are glad the court has put a stop to EPA’s pattern of setting impossible mandates for a biofuel that does not even exist,” Greco said.  “This absurd mandate acts as a stealth tax on gasoline with no environmental benefit that could have ultimately burdened consumers.”