The USDA is setting a goal of a 30 percent blend of biofuels into the U.S. fuel supply by 2050, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday. Increased biofuel use was one of the four objectives of an "innovation agenda" to increase agricultural production by 40 percent while reducing agriculture's environmental impact by half.
With the EPA expected to act as soon as Friday, biofuel supporters have called for President Trump’s direct intervention to assure a market for 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol in 2020.
Congress is on the verge of retroactive restoration of the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit, a result of the last-minute inclusion of a package of tax breaks in a mammoth government funding bill. The House passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to approve it by the end of the week.
Even as larger-scale producers of cellulosic ethanol shutter their plants, a handful of small-volume producers are staying the course. One of them, northwestern Iowa’s Quad County Corn Processors, has been using its distinctive distilling method to make cellulosic ethanol since 2014.
The EPA justified its exemption of 31 refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard in a two-page memorandum that it did not reveal for weeks, said a coalition of four biofuel groups and two farm groups in a challenge filed in a U.S. appeals court. The petition was filed at the same time biofuel backers are accusing the EPA of a “bait and switch” on promises to increase ethanol consumption.
The Trump administration is siding with Big Oil despite announcing a plan to increase ethanol consumption, farm state senators told the No. 2 USDA official on Thursday. “That’s a president that has chosen oil companies over family farmers,” said one of the critics, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The Trump administration “has yet ... to produce a concrete plan to meet the annual 15 billion-gallon requirement” for mixing corn ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply, said House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson on Wednesday.
The EPA will adjust the Renewable Fuel Standard to "net out" at 15 billion gallons in 2020 after waivers to some oil refineries, said administrator Andrew Wheeler. During a broadcast interview, Wheeler said the agency expects to release soon a detailed version of its plan, intended as a compromise between the ethanol and oil industries.
The Trump administration responded to months of Farm Belt complaints that it was undermining homegrown biofuels by vowing to increase the ethanol mandate, beginning next year, above the 15-billion-gallon-a-year target that is set by law. Officials did not specify a new figure for corn ethanol usage nor did its package include the oil industry's goal of a cap on the price of credits that refiners must buy if they do not mix enough ethanol into gasoline.