The EPA will issue an emergency waiver allowing sales of E15 — gasoline that is 15 percent corn ethanol — this summer, announced President Biden on Tuesday, ahead of a trip to Iowa, the No. 1 corn- and ethanol-producing state. The step will save motorists up to 10 cents a gallon on surging gasoline prices and aid the rural economy, said the White House.
Facing a court-ordered deadline for action, the Environmental Protection Agency denied on Thursday 36 requests by small refiners for "hardship" exemptions from the U.S. ethanol mandate. Biofuel and farm groups lamented the decision "fails to remedy the economic harms" of reduced demand for corn ethanol.
The recovering U.S. economy, aided by wider availability of the fuel, helped boost sales of E15 — gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol — to a record 814 million gallons in 2021, said the Renewable Fuels Association on Wednesday. Sales were 62 percent higher than the 504 million gallons sold in 2020, according to RFA estimates.
The Renewable Fuel Standard, which guarantees corn ethanol and other biofuels a share of the U.S. gasoline market, results in the release of at least as much carbon "and likely at least 24 percent higher" greenhouse gas emissions than the petroleum it displaced, say scientists who studied the program's first eight years.
With automakers shifting toward the production of electric cars and trucks, the ethanol industry said on Wednesday that biofuels will be an important tool against global warming, and arguably create less pollution than battery-powered vehicles. The comparison was based on life-cycle costs for the power sources, starting at power stations for electricity and corn fields for ethanol.
The Supreme Court, without comment, refused to hear an ethanol industry appeal to reinstate year-round sales of E15, gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. A federal appeals court ruled last July that the EPA, acting at the direction of then-President Trump, exceeded its authority in approving summertime sales of E15 in 2019.
Verbio North America says it will more than double the capacity of its plant in central Iowa to produce renewable natural gas from corn stover, and it plans to begin production of corn ethanol in the final months of the year. The facility was the first of three plants in the nation to return to biofuel production after faltering as a producer of cellulosic ethanol, made from grasses, woody plants and crop residue.
During the ethanol boom of the early 2000s, Congress set an ambitious target of quadrupling the amount of renewable fuel mixed into gasoline for America's cars and pickup trucks. But while corn ethanol has lived up to its part of the plan, cleaner-burning "advanced" biofuels have been slow to come to market — two factors for the EPA to consider as it faces a regulatory reset of the Renewable Fuel Standard in the new year.
The Biden administration said it would set the ethanol mandate at its highest level ever in 2022 and reject 65 requests from small refineries for exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both were welcome steps for biofuel backers, but they rebelled at companion proposals to retroactively set the RFS for 2020 and this year below the maximum possible — "a betrayal" of rural America, said a Nebraska senator.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration appeared "very close" to releasing a long-promised $700 million in pandemic aid to biofuel producers. The aid was announced in March as part of a remodeling of coronavirus relief programs by the incoming administration.
Amid reports the EPA might scale back the ethanol mandate, biofuel groups said on Tuesday there was no U.S. path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions or lower prices at the fuel pump without homegrown ethanol. In testimony before Congress and in a letter to the White House, the trade groups …
Since it revamped its pandemic relief programs in March to "reach a broader set of producers," the Agriculture Department has committed $8.75 billion in assistance to farmers and ranchers, including $750 million for the dairy sector and up to $1 billion for contract growers of pigs and poultry. Only a few items remained on its list for implementation on Tuesday, among them $700 million for biofuel producers.
Projects in 23 states across the nation will receive a combined $26 million to install pumps, tanks, and other equipment for selling higher-blend biofuels, said the USDA on Thursday. The projects are expected to expand the availability of higher-blend fuels by 822 million gallons annually.
The market for corn ethanol will be stunted unreasonably if sales of gasoline containing a higher blend of the homegrown fuel are banned during the summer, said corn growers and two biofuel groups on Tuesday. They asked all 16 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review a July 2 decision against year-round sales of E15, gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol.
In a victory for environmental groups, a federal appeals court told the EPA to consider the effect of the ethanol mandate on endangered animals and plants. The ruling applied to the 2019 RFS but held implications for the agency's development of the RFS for future years.
In a step coinciding with an ethanol conference in Iowa, midwestern lawmakers filed bills in the House and Senate to allow year-round sales of gasoline that is a 15 percent, or higher, blend of corn ethanol. The bills would override a U.S. appeals court ruling on July 2 against summertime sales of E15.
Despite losing two high-profile cases in seven days, the ethanol industry says the future is bright for the corn-based biofuel that it promotes as a low-carbon alternative to gasoline and a tool to slow global warming. “We view both decisions as only temporary setbacks but neither will deter …
Farm and ethanol groups said they were confident the EPA will approve few exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard, but they urged the agency on Monday to state how it will run the program in the wake of last week's Supreme Court ruling on waivers.
The federal appeals court that greatly restricted access to "hardship" exemptions from the U.S. ethanol mandate in 2020 granted an EPA request on Wednesday to cancel three exemptions issued on President Trump's final day in office.