The decades-long decline in the number of U.S. farms can be stanched by adopting climate-smart farming practices and crops, increasing biofuel production, and expanding local and regional marketing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the largest U.S. farm group on Monday. There are 2 million farms in operation today; the number of farms peaked at 6.8 million in the 1930s.
The production of biomass-based diesel, a category that includes motor and aviation fuel, reached 4 billion gallons in 2023, a 1-billion-gallon gain from the previous year, said the Clean Fuels Alliance America on Monday. "The clean fuels industry achieved what EPA said could not be done – namely continued growth of advanced biodiesel, renewable diesel, SAF [sustainable aviation fuel], and heating oil from sustainably sourced feedstocks,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of the trade group
Republican presidential candidates pledged allegiance to corn ethanol ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in a contest dominated by former president Donald Trump and his personality. There was little room for any farm policy debate in an effectively nationalized campaign.
Climate change is a worldwide challenge, but it also offers the opportunity to boost farm income for those who adopt climate-smart practices, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a food and agriculture conference on Wednesday. “I can guarantee you farmers will embrace this,” he said. “I am truly confident. I think agriculture gets to net-zero before most of the major industries.”
Former president Donald Trump, ignoring his own mixed record on biofuels, said at a rally in western Iowa that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his most viable challenger for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, "totally despises Iowa ethanol and ethanol generally."
The Biden administration is the best friend the biofuel industry ever had, notwithstanding gripes that it set the RFS too low, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. Vilsack defended the administration's record while announcing an additional $450 million to encourage the sale of higher blends of biofuels, such as E15, through installation of dispensing pumps, storage tanks and related equipment.
The Biden administration on Wednesday called for an 8 percent increase in biofuel consumption through 2025, with lower-carbon “advanced” fuels as the beneficiaries. Corn ethanol would remain the dominant biofuel at 15 billion gallons a year in the updated Renewable Fuel Standard.
In the hours ahead of a roll call on their debt limit bill, House Republican leaders relented on a proposal to eliminate tax credits for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and second-generation biofuels. They proceeded with a repeal of the $1.25-a-gallon credit for sustainable aviation fuel that was created last summer as part of the climate, health, and tax bill.
House Republicans would eliminate several tax credits for the biofuels industry, including the $1.25-a-gallon credit for sustainable aviation fuel, in the budget bill that could be put to a vote next week. The package also would eliminate incentives created in the 2022 climate, health, and tax bill for biomass-based diesel fuel and second-generation biofuels.
The Biden administration is turning a cold shoulder to biofuels and rural America by encouraging the use of electric vehicles, said farm-state Republicans during a complaint-filled House hearing with EPA administrator Michael Regan on Wednesday. Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon pointed to the so-called WOTUS rule on wetlands protections and declared, “Any goodwill the administration has built with farmers and ranchers is gone.”
The EPA, to settle a lawsuit over biofuel regulation, said on Monday it would consult with federal wildlife agencies on whether the Renewable Fuel Standard adversely affects endangered species. The consultation would be performed before the EPA finalizes the RFS for 2023-23, now expected in June.
More than half of Americans have a favorable view of ethanol as a fuel source, compared to 45 percent for crude oil, according to a poll commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association. The trade group said the results "demonstrate that Americans strongly support expanded use of lower-cost, lower-carbon renewable fuels like ethanol."
The EPA proposed a 10 percent increase, mostly reserved for cleaner-burning “advanced” biofuels, over three years in the federal mandate to mix biofuels into the U.S. gasoline supply, and said it would expand the Renewable Fuel Standard to include electricity generated from biogas and used in electric vehicles. The proposal, announced Thursday, would mean greater use of E15 and other blends of corn ethanol above the traditional 10 percent, said ethanol groups.
The upcoming EPA regulatory reset of the Renewable Fuel Standard should push the corn ethanol target above 15 billion gallons for the highest annual mandate ever and allow E15 to be sold year-round, said farm-state senators on Wednesday. In a letter to EPA administrator Michael Regan, the senators urged the agency to establish “robust and expanded” biofuel mandates.
The Renewable Fuel Standard is the most successful clean energy tool available to the government, which should make full use of it when setting the biofuel mandate for 2023 and future years, said farm and biofuel trade groups on Thursday. “What we’re really looking to take place with EPA is that they maximize the full potential of the RFS,” said Emily Skor, chief executive of Growth Energy.
The government will pay up to half of the cost of installing pumps, tanks and other equipment at gas stations and other retailers that want to sell higher blends of biofuels, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. Projects would receive cost-share grants drawn from $100 million available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIPP).
Farm-state lawmakers would have the funds to write a climate-focused farm bill if Congress enacts a broad-ranging package that President Biden on Thursday called “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” The package includes $20 billion for voluntary conservation practices on the farm to sequester greenhouse gases in soils, plants, and trees.
The EPA has a free hand in writing the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2023, but the agency could be 18 months late and operating under a court order when it finally issues its proposal this fall. A biofuel trade group says nailing down the release date is a milestone in the campaign for expanded use of the alternative fuels.