EPA Should Not Undercut Advanced and Cellulosic Biofuel Development With Proposed Changes to RFS
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks authority to waive the overall 2014 volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard, particularly when production and supply of advanced biofuels continues to grow, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) emphasized in official comments filed today. If EPA does lower advanced biofuel volume requirements, it will undercut efforts to commercialize new cellulosic biofuel technologies just as they begin to enter the market.
In the comments, Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, writes, “A court would not likely uphold the 2014 RFS rule as proposed, given that EPA’s proposed interpretation of its authority under the general and cellulosic waiver authorities exceeds the bounds of appropriate deference under the law.”
The advanced biofuel industry produced more than 3.26 billion qualifying gallons of renewable fuel (measured by Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs) in 2013, according to EPA data. Based on proven production, the industry will be able to produce an adequate supply of 3.75 billion gallons in 2014, called for in the RFS statute, BIO asserts. “Multiple avenues exist for blending additional volumes of biofuel into the nation’s fuel supply... These options, combined with the introduction of new “drop-in” fuel molecules, provide a suite of opportunities for the growth of the entire biofuels industry and RFS compliance,” Erickson writes.
Erickson goes on to explain that because the RFS program’s compliance system has a nested structure, with RINs used as tradable compliance credits, “EPA’s proposal to lower the advanced biofuel obligation from 2.75 billion RINs in 2013 to 2.21 billion RINs in 2014 will create a disincentive for purchasing cellulosic biofuel, by artificially lowering the cost of the alternative method of compliance.”
The comments conclude that EPA should not put at risk the progress the advanced biofuel industry has made in commercializing new biofuels and the environmental benefits that can be achieved. The advanced biofuel industry has invested $5.9 billion and created 8,000 jobs over the past five years, with the potential to create up to 800,000 career opportunities by 2022. Further, these advanced biofuels are reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and will continue to do so in the future. “The net increase in CO2e emissions resulting from the proposed rule is equivalent to adding 5.6 million additional vehicles to the roads” in 2014, Erickson writes, with cumulative foregone reductions of nearly 1 billion metric tons of CO2e by 2022.