On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its ruling for renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2017. The most controversial aspect of the ruling was the EPA’s decision to allocate a 14.8 billion gallon requirement for “conventional renewable fuels” such as corn ethanol. This measure is below the 15 billion gallon benchmark set forth by the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Many groups decried this ruling in how it didn’t even meet the most basic requirements of the RFS.
National Corn Growers Association president, Maryland farmer Chip Bowling touted the importance of The Renewable Fuel Standard and why increasing market for renewable fuels such as ethanol-based fuels is necessary. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is working for America. It has made our air cleaner. It has spurred investment in rural communities and created high-tech jobs. It has given drivers more choices at the gas pump. And it has reduced our dependency on foreign oil. Any reduction in the statutory amount takes America backward – destabilizing our environment, our economy, and our energy security.”
U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) echoed these concerns saying, “If we’re ever going to break our addiction to foreign fossil fuels and become energy independent, we need to invest in American potential such as Illinois’ biofuel industry.”
Bowling cites how the renewable fuels industry is well-poised for growth due to its adherence of federal requirements. “In the past, the EPA has cited a lack of fuel infrastructure as one reason for failing to follow statute. Our corn farmers and the ethanol industry have responded. Over the past year, we’ve invested millions of dollars along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership to accelerate public and private investment in new ethanol pumps and fuel infrastructure. The fact is, today’s driver has more access than ever to renewable fuel choices.”
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dineen argues that ironically the federal government assisted their ability to meet the RFS but also is barring the industry from reaching that standard. “The RFA has demonstrated just how easy it would be for obligated parties to reach the 15 billion gallon statutory volume for conventional biofuels next year. The fact is with rising gasoline demand, increased E15 and E85 use made possible by USDA’s infrastructure grant program, continued use of renewable diesel and conventional biodiesel that also generate D6 RINs (renewable identification numbers), well more than 15 billion gallons will be used next year. All of that is in addition to the 2 billion surplus RINs available to refiners due to EPA’s tepid enforcement of the RFS in the past.”
Despite this criticism, Bustos, Bowling, and Dineen all agree that the EPA is heading in the right direction. Bustos said, “While the EPA’s proposed rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard falls short of what I’d prefer, the potential increase in production is a step in the right direction for Illinois farmers and biofuel producers, and I will continue to work with the EPA to ensure that our agricultural community’s voice is heard.”
In a statement from the Illinois Corn Growers Association, ICGA President Jeff Jarboe expressed optimism. "Still, at least the market continues to grow and the EPA has made a timely announcement. Corn farmers will be happy to fill the portion of the market we are allowed, and focus on increasing ethanol exports to the countries that DO see value in our renewable fuel."