Senators urge increases in biodiesel volumes
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October 19, 2017
Senators urge increases in biodiesel volumes

Thirty-three U.S. senators (22 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and 2 Independents) have asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reconsider the Agency’s recent notice in which it requests public comments on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel (BBD), advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 BBD volume under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

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In their letter, the senators urge Pruitt to support higher renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for BBD and advanced biofuel to encourage growth in the industry and diversity in the nation’s energy supply. Shortly after the letter was sent, several of the senators met with Pruitt, who, they said, seemed receptive to the message.

EPA’s notice

In the notice that concerns the senators (October 4, FR), the Agency said that it is considering exercising its statutory waiver author to change the RVOs because of concerns about the high cost of BBD and particularly the increasing cost of imported BBD.

“In particular, we seek data on recent BBD price increases and expectations for additional price increases, and we seek comment on the extent to which these price increases should be considered ‘significant’ for purposes of the CAA section 211(o)(7)(E)(ii) waiver authority and the extent of a waiver (up to 15 percent) that would be necessary to address or avoid a significant price increase,” the Agency stated.

Capacity available

But according to the senators, these proposed volumes do not meet actual biodiesel production capacity in the United States and could have a negative impact on jobs and economies in rural communities across the nation.

“Biodiesel is the first EPA-designated advanced biofuel under the RFS to reach commercial scale production nationwide,” the letter states. “The biodiesel industry has met RFS criteria for growth each year, exceeding the goals that Congress envisioned when it created the RFS with bipartisan support. In addition, biodiesel has consistently made up the majority of the advanced biofuel volumes. This ability to meet or exceed RVOs coupled with the substantial investment made by the biodiesel industry indicate that these fuels offer the best opportunity for continued growth in the near future.”

Market signals

But growth will occur, the letter states, only if the EPA sends the right market signals—that is, those associated with increased minimum volumes.

“Reducing volumes and especially those RVOs that were previously finalized is disruptive, unprecedented, and very troubling,” the senators stated. “We have made great progress through the RFS in diversifying our nation’s fuel supply while creating and sustaining jobs, strengthening local economies, generating tax revenues, and improving energy security. We urge you to support higher RVOs for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels in the final rule to encourage additional development and use of this fuel.”

 The letter notes a study conducted last year by LMC International and released by the National Biodiesel Board, which found that the 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel used by Americans in 2015 supported 47,400 jobs and $1.9 billion in wages, and had an $8.4 billion economic impact.

Trump promised support

In a news release issued the day after the date on the letter, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and three other senators who signed the letter met with Pruitt in Grassley’s office. “I told Administrator Pruitt that supporting biofuels isn’t just good policy,” wrote Grassley. “It’s also what President Trump promised. I reiterated what the President told me personally and what he told Iowans during the campaign, that he’s for biofuels and for a strong RFS.”

“This is about the President’s keeping his promise to the people and the executive branch’s executing the laws as passed by Congress,” Grassley continued. “It’s Administrator Pruitt’s duty to follow congressional intent and also make good on President Trump’s pledge to support biofuels. I’ll oppose any effort to reduce blending levels or undermine the integrity of the RFS. I’m watching this issue closely and plan to hold the Administration accountable.”

The senators’ letter is here.

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