The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to require 16.55 billion
gallons of renewable fuels, including 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol,
be blended into the nation's gasoline supply in 2013.
EPA in a proposed
rule released Jan. 31 indicated it intends to increase the cellulosic
ethanol requirement by more than 60 percent from 2012 levels despite a recent
federal appeals court decision criticizing the agency for consistently
overestimating cellulosic biofuel production.
The 2013 proposal would increase the renewable fuel standard requirements by
1.35 billion gallons over 2012 levels. Renewable fuels will account for 9.63
percent of the nation's fuel supply in 2013, the agency said. The proposed
standard includes a requirement that petroleum refiners blend 2.75 billion
gallons of advanced biofuels, which includes cellulosic ethanol, into the
Additionally, EPA issued a separate proposed
rule that would establish a voluntary quality assurance program for renewable
identification numbers (RINs) (see related story).
The 14-million-gallon cellulosic ethanol mandate for 2013 is up from 8.65
million gallons in 2012. Cellulosic ethanol production has lagged behind other
renewable fuels with only 20,069 gallons of the fuel produced in 2012, according
The renewable fuel standard numbers are largely dictated by the Energy
Independence and Security Act (Pub. L. No. 110-140), but EPA has the discretion
to reduce the cellulosic ethanol component of the standard. The act requires 1
billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2013.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Jan. 25
vacated the 2012 requirement after it was challenged by the petroleum industry.
The court said EPA must set the annual blending standard based on projections of
actual cellulosic ethanol production rather than setting inflated targets meant
to spur investment in the fuel (American Petroleum Institute v. EPA, D.C.
Cir., No. 12-1139, 1/25/13; see related story).
Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which
includes cellulosic ethanol producers, told BNA Jan. 31 that EPA is abiding by
the court's decision even though it chose to increase the requirement for
“EPA is actually potentially underestimating, since they are only looking at
the facilities that are already complete,” he said. “They are discounting any
gallons from facilities scheduled to be complete before year's end. So, they are
actually being very conservative compared to the court's ruling.”
The INEOS Bio Indian River BioEnergy Center in Florida, which produces 8
million gallons per year, and the KiOR facility in Mississippi, which produces
11 million gallons per year, are the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol
producers to be registered as renewable fuel producers with EPA.
“By the time of our final rule the facilities owned by KiOR and INEOS Bio are
scheduled to have already begun fuel production, making our 2013 projections
more reliable than prior year projections,” EPA said. “We believe the sum of
these individual projected available volumes (14 million ethanol-equivalent
gallons) is a reasonable representation of expected production. This projection
reflects EPA's best estimate of what will actually happen in 2013.”
Despite the progress made by the cellulosic ethanol industry, petroleum
refiners were skeptical of EPA's proposal.
“For four years running, biofuel producers have promised high cellulosic
ethanol production,” Robert Greco, downstream group director for the American
Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. “EPA uses these aspirational claims to
set mandates, but the promised production hasn't happened. With today's
announcement, EPA has proven yet again that its renewable fuels program is
unworkable and must be scrapped.”
Petroleum refiners would have had to purchase $8 million worth of renewable
fuel credits from EPA in 2012 because there was no cellulosic ethanol available,
the American Petroleum Institute said in its lawsuit challenging the
The 14 million-gallon requirement for cellulosic ethanol in 2013 is “beyond
ludicrous,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking Republican on the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.
“EPA has been getting away with mandating exaggerated fuel standards based on
a pie in the sky wish, and even after last week's embarrassing loss, they
persevere in ignoring the cold hard facts,” he said.
Although EPA reduced the cellulosic ethanol component of the renewable fuel
standard, it chose to not reduce the overall advanced biofuels requirement.
Cellulosic ethanol is a subset of advanced biofuels. That worried some
environmental advocates as well as some renewable fuels producers.
EPA has not waived the overall advanced biofuel requirement in past years
when it has reduced the cellulosic ethanol mandate. Instead, the agency has said
sugar cane ethanol and biodiesel would be able to cover the difference.
The Renewable Fuels Association said it was concerned that retaining the
advanced biofuels requirement would increase imports of more expensive sugarcane
ethanol from Brazil. According to the ethanol trade group, imports accounted for
92 percent of the advanced biofuels used to comply with the 2012 standard.
Jonathan Lewis, a staff attorney at the environmental advocacy group Clean
Air Task Force, told BNA Jan. 31 that increasing demand for Brazilian sugarcane
ethanol could lead to more land being cleared to grow sugarcane.
“Scale is everything when it comes to biofuels and their climate impact,”
EPA previously issued its biomass-based diesel requirement for 2013,
stipulating that 1.28 billion gallons be used. Petroleum groups have filed
lawsuits challenging that requirement (American Petroleum Institute v.
EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1465, 11/26/12; American Fuel & Petrochemical
Manufacturers v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1464, 11/21/12; 43 ER 3034,
EPA will accept comments on its proposed renewable fuel standard volume
requirements rule for 2013 for 45 days after it published in the Federal
Register. Comment can be made at http://www.regulations.gov and should
reference Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0546.
By Andrew Childers
The proposed rule for setting renewable fuel requirements for 2013 is
available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/documents/rfs-2013-standards-nrpm.pdf.
For more information, contact Julia MacAllister in EPA's Office of
Transportation and Air Quality at (734) 214-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.