Ag Policy Blog

Seeking Certainty in Biofuels, But Finding Little

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Only few places offer mid-level biofuel blends, but some groups are pushing EPA to allow more.

Sporting a red checkered shirt and taking photo-ops with a few Iowa politicians up for re-election, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dropped into Iowa this week. Wheeler talked about "certainty" but offered none. Based on the news reports from the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wheeler didn't say EPA was going to back off on small-refinery exemptions, and he said the agency is stilling "looking into" the possibility of E15 year-round.

There were still no answers about the biofuel demand lost from EPA's small-refinery exemptions, only Wheeler pointing out the need for more transparency. As DTN has reported, EPA granted more than 2.25 billion gallons of exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2016 and 2017, which translates into basically 800 million bushels of lost corn demand.

Wheeler continues to say EPA wants to be certain the agency as legal authority on E15, a question EPA has only been looking into the legality on for roughly a decade now. This seems to be the one area where EPA is insistent upon due diligence.…

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprises and the Urban Air Initiative announced they plan to work to expand the prospect of higher octane fuels. Because the biofuels industry thinks EPA's proposed rollback of auto fuel standards is really a door for the biofuels industry to show EPA just what higher biofuel blends and higher octane can achieve. The alliance sees an opportunity even as the petroleum industry also sees opportunity in the fuel-economy standards rollback as well.

And, as DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reports, farm and biofuel groups also have submitted their comments to EPA for the 2019 volume requirements under the RFS and hope they aren't continuing to play the role of Charlie Brown as Lucy insists this time she truly isn't going to yank the ball away.

Corn Growers, NFU, Growth Energy submit RFS comments

By Jerry Hagstrom

DTN Political Correspondent

On the last day that the Environmental Protection Agency is accepting comments on the volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2019, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Union and Growth Energy, a renewable fuels lobby group, today urged EPA to make sure that at least the full 15 billion gallon volume for conventional ethanol will be used next year.

“The rule proposes an implied 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional ethanol but fails to account for, nor consider comments on, retroactive exemptions granted to refineries,” NCGA said in a news release.

“To uphold the full clean air, cost-savings, energy independence, and rural economic benefits consumers and farmers receive from the RFS, EPA must also use the 2019 volume rule to make and keep the RFS whole,” NCGA President and North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes said.

NCGA noted that EPA disclosed the agency granted retroactive exemptions to 48 refineries for 2016 and 2017 RFS obligations, amounting to 2.25 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons, but stated the agency is not soliciting comments on how to account for exemptions going forward to prevent exemptions from lowering RFS volumes.

“While EPA may not want feedback on how the agency is failing to maintain the integrity of the RFS and administer the volume standards in accordance with the law, corn farmers will provide that feedback nonetheless and make our voices heard,” NCGA’s comments state.

“The process for accounting for these volumes is central to the integrity of the RFS, and it is offensive to farmers that EPA does not believe our comments on this issue are worth soliciting and considering.”

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport


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