Ag Groups Disappointed in EV Mandate

Biden EPA Sets EV Mandate; Ag Groups Say Biden Vehicle Emissions Rule Shuts Out Ethanol, Biofuels

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Biden administration released a final vehicle emissions rule Wednesday that mandates the sale of electric vehicles. (Photo by Ranjithsiji, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The Biden administration finalized national pollution standards for vehicles through 2032, leaving next to no room for ethanol and other biofuels as a tool to cut emissions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced pollution standards for passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027 to 2032, requiring automobile companies to ramp up production of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs).

While the new standards give automakers some flexibility in how they reduce emissions, the standards do little to use ethanol and other biofuels to reduce pollution.

The final rule requires 67% of new light-duty vehicles and 46% of medium-duty vehicles sold to be electric by 2032.

Agriculture and biofuels groups expressed disappointment.

The National Corn Growers Association said the standards will harm farmers and ranchers and their rural communities.

"The plan still relies almost exclusively on the use of electric vehicles, requiring that a majority of the specified fleets are electric in less than a decade," the NCGA said in a statement.

"A decision of this magnitude will have long-lasting negative implications for the rural economy because it ignores the benefits of ethanol."

NCGA President Harold Wolle said the EPA essentially chose to "ignore the readily available solution" that biofuels like ethanol provide.

"This decision will not only severely hamper the administration's ability to reach its own climate goals, but it will also hurt family farms and rural communities that rely heavily on the sale of biofuels," he said.

"On top of that, it will remove consumer choice from the market."

NCGA said since about 33% of corn has been used in ethanol production annually, loss of corn demand will be harmful.

NCGA has been front and center in urging Congress to pass the "Next Generation Fuels Act," which would further promote the use of ethanol and other biofuels.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the EPA's final rule represents a missed opportunity to reduce pollution from vehicles in the near term.

"Since this rule was proposed last April, the Biden administration has heard loud and clear that it would be a mistake to ignore biofuels -- a proven, abundant and American-made solution to reduce emissions," Skor said in a statement.

"The final rule offers automakers some limited flexibility, but it fails to include any meaningful changes to ensure we're not leaving biofuels on the sidelines. Experts worldwide agree that EVs alone cannot get us to a net-zero future. We need carbon savings within liquid fuels and that requires a bigger role for American bioethanol. It's baffling to see EPA accept a false choice between only two paths forward -- fossil-fuel-only vehicles or mass adoption of EVs."

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the final EPA rule will make it more difficult for the ethanol industry to expand the use of flexible-fuel vehicles.

"While we share the Biden administration's vision for reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency, today's final rule certainly isn't the best way to accomplish that goal," he said in a statement.

"Clearly, the substantive concerns raised by automakers, ethanol producers, fuel suppliers, consumer groups, and many others went unheard by the White House and EPA. Today's final rule effectively forces automakers to produce more battery electric vehicles based on the false premise that they are 'zero-emission vehicles.' At the same time, the regulation would strongly discourage manufacturers from pursuing other technologies like flex fuel vehicles and engines optimized to operate on high-octane, low-carbon ethanol, that could achieve superior environmental performance at a lower cost to American consumers."

The RFA said in a news release that throughout the rulemaking process the group "strongly encouraged" EPA to "abandon its de facto" EV mandate.

"Unfortunately, EPA's final rule continues to ignore the significant upstream emissions related to electricity generation, as well as the substantial emissions involved in battery mineral extraction and processing," RFA said on Wednesday.

RFA said a national poll of registered voters conducted last week said they opposed EV mandates.

In a nationwide survey of 1,991 registered voters conducted last week, 68% said they oppose policies that mandate EVs, up from 63% when the same question was asked in September 2023. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of voters responding support policies that expand the availability of high-octane mid-level ethanol blends and flex-fuel vehicles.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a statement the Biden administration should turn to nationwide E15 availability to curb vehicle pollution.

"The Biden administration's revised standard responds to a slowdown in sales as Americans realize not just the cost and unreliability of electric vehicles, but also the dirty truth behind this supposedly 'clean' technology," she said.

"Continuing to force EVs on automakers and the public will only exacerbate their serious environmental, safety and human rights concerns. More practical, market-driven changes like allowing the year-round sale of E15 ethanol would help achieve environmental goals for America's vehicle fleet."

U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, said the administration should "reverse this misguided decision and allow American families to decide which vehicle is best for them. The free market -- not government mandates -- must prevail."

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Todd Neeley

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