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EPA Announces Final 2018 Renewable-Fuel Blending Targets

Conventional biofuels hold steady, while other targets get cut

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final volume requirements for blending biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply for 2018, sticking with the mandated target for conventional biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but cutting the volumes for cellulosic types of fuel.

The targets, which EPA published on schedule, call for:

  • Keeping the renewable volume obligations (RVO) for conventional biofuels (mainly corn-based ethanol) at the 15-billion-gallon mark, as mandated by the RFS.
  • 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuel to be blended into fuel in 2018, up from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017, and higher than the 4.24 billion gallons proposed in July.
  • 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel, the same target proposed in July and held steady from 2017 levels.
  • 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels—created from plant material such as switchgrass and corn husks—which is less than the 311 million mandated in the RFS but higher than the EPA’s original 238-million-gallon proposal from July. The agency, which used its waiver authority in lowering the targets, cited “real-world challenges, in particular the slower-than-expected development of the cellulosic biofuel industry."

Biofuel groups were largely positive about the targets for conventional biofuels. Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Sioux Falls, S.D., described his members as “very pleased” by the EPA’s decision to stick with the 15-billion-gallon target for conventional biofuels and the increase in advanced biofuels.

“Beyond sending a generally positive signal to the rural economy, increased blending targets also reassure retailers that it makes sense to offer E15 and flex fuels to their customers,” he said, referring to the 15% ethanol blend that is currently available at about 1,200 fueling locations in 29 states.

“We applaud the administration for standing up against efforts to destabilize the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Emily Skor, CEO of biofuels association Growth Energy, referring to the push by many in the oil industry to revamp or dismantle the RFS—including a recent effort to change the point of obligation to meet the standards. “The EPA’s on-time announcement upholds the statutory targets for conventional biofuels, which will provide much-needed certainty for hard-pressed rural communities.”

However, these and other groups were disappointed in the lower cellulosic targets and the static biodiesel blending volumes.

“Unwarranted cuts to cellulosic biofuel targets send the wrong signal to global investors in this emerging industry,” said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Hugoton, Kansas, in a statement. “The cellulosic biofuels industry is growing and stands ready to drive the next great wave of manufacturing jobs across the heartland.”

In a statement, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), Jefferson City, Mo., said it was disappointed by the “flat volumes” the EPA was requiring for biodiesel, despite the industry’s push for the agency to increase targets.

“The biodiesel industry has consistently exceeded EPA’s standards, despite the agency underestimating the volumes each year,” the NBB said in a press release. “These volumes are important for setting a baseline—and our industry will again surpass these low expectations—but the failure to increase volumes will inhibit continued growth and investments.”

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