US biofuel group protests some EPA renewable fuels proposals

4 Feb 2022 | Mark Shenk

A US biofuel group has expressed industry displeasure with some proposals from a key government agency charged with overseeing biofuel policy that it argues will reduce blending requirements, cut corn demand, and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said that while it agreed with much of what is included in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan on biofuel volumes for 2020-2022, they argued with what they see as cuts to ethanol blend mandates for 2020 and 2021, when US fuel demand tumbled due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

“If EPA’s proposed cuts for 2020 and 2021 were finalized, they would have devastating results for our economy and environment,” RFA President and CEO, Geoff Cooper, said in a letter to EPA Administrator, Michael Regan.

This follows a January 31 letter to Regan from a bipartisan group of 14 senators from corn-producing states such as Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota asking the EPA to eliminate the retroactive cuts to blending requirements.  

EPA published proposals in December that called for a total renewable fuel volume requirement of 17.13 billion gallons in 2020, 18.52 billion gallons in 2021, and 20.77 billion gallons in 2022.

Each proposal year is separated into individual cellulosic and biomass-based diesel categories – collectively labeled ‘advanced biofuels’ – the bulk of the obligation falls on ethanol, which is usually produced from corn and consumes up to 40% of the US harvest.

Advanced biofuels are expected to contribute 4.63 billion gallons in 2020, 5.2 billion gallons in 2021, and 5.77 billion gallons in 2022, meaning the conventional ethanol blend volume stands at 12.5 billion gallons for 2020, and 13.32 billion gallons in 2021.

The industry group is pleased that the ethanol blend target for 2022 is being restored to 15 billion gallons – its typical pre-Covid level.

RFA argues that the EPA should eliminate the 2020 revision and revise the 2021 total to reflect what it says is a higher level of ethanol consumption.    

The RFA said that if the proposed cuts to 2020, 2021 requirements were finalized they would reduce as much as 2.9 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuel blending requirements while slashing corn demand by 1.05 billion bushels (26.7 million mt).