LAVISTA, Neb. (DTN) -- With summer E15 restrictions about to kick in, federal lawmakers are poised to reintroduce a legislative fix within the next week, an official with the Renewable Fuels Association told an ethanol industry audience during an ethanol forum held in LaVista, Nebraska, on Tuesday.
The EPA last week launched a public-comment period on a proposal to grant petitions from eight states to make a change in federal law to allow year-round E15 sales permanently in those states.
On Monday, attorneys general in Iowa and Nebraska filed an intent to sue with EPA Administrator Michael Regan if the agency does not change the effective date of granting those petitions from 2024 to 2023.
Troy Bredenkamp, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the RFA, said during the Nebraska Ethanol Board's Emerging Issues ethanol forum that the states' petitions have jump-started efforts to find a national fix.
"I think the short answer is, I think we're closer than we've been in a long time," Bredenkamp said during a panel discussion.
"And much of that has to be attributed to the state effort. When those state governors petitioned their government to opt out of the RVP program last April, that really set into motion something that a lot of people weren't expecting."
EPA is set to grant the petitions of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Last November, E15 legislation, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2022, was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and then in the House in December by Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.
Bredenkamp said a divided Congress in 2023 will make it difficult to pass any legislation, but federal lawmakers are poised to take another shot at the bill.
"It was a long shot to get it done in the lame duck. We were pretty close," he said.
"We were closer than we've been in a while, but at the end of the day, some negotiations with the merchant refiners -- they were just asking for way too much. So, fast forward to the new Congress. We're in a position right now, especially with the decision we saw on the EPA last week, to really ratchet up the pressure again to get something done legislatively. We anticipate reintroduction of the same bill that we introduced last year to happen within the next week."
Bredenkamp said there is expected to be a coordinated effort on both sides of Congress. In the Senate, Fischer and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are set to reintroduce the bill, while Reps. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., and Craig plan to do so on the House side.
Chances of making an E15 fix are better than they've been in years, he said.
Last fall the RFA was approached by the American Petroleum Institute to begin looking for a solution to benefit all parties.
It all started, Bredenkamp said, with the state petitions.
"That effort has really prompted a lot of talk in Washington, D.C., about coming up with a federal legislative solution," he said.
"And we haven't been making a lot of headway until those states came forward. We applaud those states for sticking with it. We're really unhappy with the one-year delay. That will require us to crank up the pressure on the White House to solve that issue. They did an emergency waiver last summer. We're going to be asking for another emergency waiver. Many of the same criteria that were in place last summer are in place still this summer. We hope to have at least an emergency waiver for the summer and a legislative solution by the end of the year."
SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL
The ethanol industry has shown a vested interest in producing ethanol as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel, because the ethanol SAF market potential is substantial.
During a panel discussion at the forum on Tuesday, however, representatives of ethanol industry groups said SAF will not get off the ground unless carbon lifecycle emissions are calculated accurately.
In particular, panelists said EPA and other agencies should use the GREET model from the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate GHG emissions for SAF along with other biofuels. The GREET model is considered to be the gold standard of carbon emissions models.
Chris Bliley, vice president for regulatory affairs at Growth Energy, said ethanol's future in SAF depends on getting the lifecycle modeling right.
"But it really comes down to lifecycle modeling, as everybody talked about yesterday, and you all know people are seeking carbon-intensity reductions at the plant," Bliley said.
"And that's just really on the ethanol side. But for sustainable aviation fuel, we're not getting the appropriate modeling. There has been a lot of discussions amongst a number of people with the administration about the importance of using DOE's GREET model for sustainable aviation fuel. Because right now we're relying on the international method, you know, one that has sort of European influence. It essentially means that we may not be able to qualify, and if we're talking about those kinds of volumes, you have to get the modeling right."
Ron Lamberty, chief marketing officer at the American Coalition for Ethanol, said it was important for the ethanol industry to make sure EPA uses an updated GREET model.
"Make sure they do have the latest model, if at all possible, because some of the different pieces of legislation say GREET at the time of action," he said.
"And that's when we get problems with some of these models that we see that are being used in different programs today. They were maybe accurate when the law was passed."
Ethanol industry groups continue to press the EPA to make changes to its electricity renewable identification numbers, or E-RINs, portion of the new Renewable Fuel Standard set proposal.
In particular, panelists were concerned with how little scrutiny the EPA appears to be giving to companies that might want to buy and sell the RFS credits.
"We have a number of concerns about E-RINs," Bliley said, "because this isn't something where a plant has gone out and proved that they're going to make 252 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, and so that's where the target has been set. The targets have been set, sort of averaging electricity use, and that's electricity that's generated from biomass that has to come from biomass. This isn't all renewable electricity. And then that goes to the automaker, who then sells the RINs to an obligated party."
Bliley said EPA's proposal estimates 700 million E-RINs will be generated in 2024 and 750 million in 2025.
"I don't think anybody knows if the numbers are high or low," he said. "And additionally, you know, for us the rigor -- I mean, you guys know what it takes to get a pathway approved from EPA or not, frankly. I mean when it comes to cellulosic registrations, people are still waiting. They've been waiting for years to get their fuel registered. Now, all of a sudden, EPA is leapfrogging with this new program that doesn't seem to have the same rigor."
Bliley said E-RINs should face the same scrutiny in terms of their credibility.
"And we think the same rigor that applies to you guys on your pathways should apply to E-RINs, and so I think that's where we've kind of pushed," he said.
Bredenkamp said the RFA's main concern with the E-RINs is on the accounting side.
"We do think there's opportunity there, but it has to be done right," he said.
"It absolutely has to be done to mimic and to follow with what the liquid fuel side has had to do for years. Sometimes folks get in trouble for a couple 100 RINs being out of place. There's really no way to account for an electron once it goes on the grid, that it actually made it to that car. It is completely counter to the way the program has been administered at this point."
Read more on DTN:
"Biden Approves State E15 Requests," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"Iowa, Nebraska Attorneys General to Sue EPA on Delay on E15 Rule Unless Effective Date Moved Up," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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