The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on 5 July its proposal for the 2018 renewable volume standards (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), alongside the 2019 RVO for biomass-based diesel.
In the proposal, the EPA called for a total of 19.24bn gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply, down from the 19.28bn gallon RVO of 2017.
Included in the proposed total are 238M gallons of cellulosic biofuel (down from 311M gallons for 2017), 2.1bn gallons of biomass-based diesel (finalised in 2016) and 4.24bn gallons of advanced biofuel (down from 4.28bn gallons). The RVO for biomass-based diesel for 2019 is set at 2.1bn gallons.
The EPA said it was lowering the RVO in all categories except biomass-diesel due to an “anticipated shortfall” in cellulosic biofuel production, according to the Biomass Magazine.
In its statement on the proposal, the EPA said the volumes were based on “requirements under the law and an analysis of current market dynamics, including energy demand, biofuel production and market constraints”.
“We are proposing new volumes consistent with market realities focused on actual production and consumer demand while being cognisant of the challenges that exist in bringing advanced biofuels into the marketplace,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
The EPA also intended to begin a technical analysis to inform a future rule to reset statutory biofuel volumes, which the agency said was required by the Clean Air Act when “certain conditions are met”.
“We expect those conditions to be met in the near future, so we are conducting technical analysis now to inform future reset rules,” Pruitt said.
The proposal drew a mixed reaction from the US biofuel industry, with some companies praising it while others called it a “missed opportunity”.
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), said he was “pleased” with the proposal maintaining the conventional biofuel RVO of 15bn gallons.
“By maintaining the 15bn gallon level for corn ethanol, the rule will help to drive more investment in infrastructure to accommodate higher ethanol blends. The RFS is a vital policy and we encourage EPA to finalise this rule as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement.
Growth Energy, a US ethanol industry trade association, was more reserved, saying the proposal signalled President Donald Trump’s government was holding onto its promises to support the RFS, but called for increased certainty.
“While we are pleased with the EPA and administration’s commitment to a 15bn gallon target for conventional biofuels, we would like to see final levels for cellulosic and advanced biofuels continue to give producers and stakeholders certainty in their investment in second generation technology,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.
The National Biodiesel Board was less enthusiastic in its response and called the proposal out of touch with reality.
“This proposal continues to underestimate the ability of the biomass-based diesel industry to meet the volumes of the RFS programme. This is a missed opportunity for biodiesel, which reduces costs, provides economic benefits and results in lower prices at the pump,” said NBB vice president of federal affairs Anne Steckel.
“The EPA should be committed to diversifying the diesel fuel market and prioritising advanced biofuels. Targets like this ignore reality and the law, inhibiting growth in the industry,” she added.