A dozen lawmakers called on Wednesday for a review of the explosion in ethanol waivers awarded by the EPA in the past two years. In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers said many of the small-volume refineries that applied for waivers did not need them.
At the same time that POET, the largest U.S. ethanol maker, said it was forced to shut down an Indiana plant due to EPA “mismanagement” of the ethanol mandate, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said that “farmers feel the government isn’t keeping its word” on biofuels.
The Trump administration proposed a Renewable Fuel Standard of 20.04 billion gallons for 2020, meaning no change in corn ethanol's share of the gasoline market for cars and light trucks, while the share of that market going to cleaner-burning cellulosic ethanol, made from grass and woody plants, will increase by 120 million gallons. Farm groups and biofuel makers, who opened the summer with a celebration that higher-blend E15 was approved for year-round sale, said the EPA bowed to Big Oil.
The EPA pointed to “President Trump’s promise” in ending its summertime ban on the sale of E15, a richer blend of corn ethanol into gasoline than the traditional blend of 10 percent. The oil industry, in response, hinted at a possible lawsuit.
For years, larger and larger sales of corn ethanol were almost a given. For one thing, the Renewable Fuel Standard guaranteed biofuels a share of the gasoline market, and car-happy Americans used more gasoline every year. The joyride, however, may be ending, says a University of Illinois economist.
The EPA intends to approve the year-round sale of E15 in time for the summer driving season, said administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday. In proposing an end to the ban on summertime sales, the EPA set a 45-day comment period on its proposal.
The Renewable Fuel Standard, which guarantees biofuels such as corn ethanol a share of the gasoline market, has prompted farmers to plow under wildlife habitat and has contributed to agricultural runoff, said the National Wildlife Federation on Thursday.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to begin work in February to allow year-round sale of E15 and complete the regulation in May, just ahead of the usual June 1 cutoff of summer sales. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, from the top corn and ethanol state, said on Tuesday that the agency "ought to speed it up" to be sure the fuel will be available for the summer driving season.
On Thursday, after months of complaints about undue secrecy, the EPA unveiled a modified website on the Renewable Fuel Standard that shows its decisions to exempt small-volume refineries from the mandate to mix biofuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.