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Legislators Call RFS Mandates 'Unattainable'

Call on EPA to rely on industry projections to implement RFS

Published on: Feb 8, 2013

A new bill to revamp the Environmental Protection Agency's mandates on cellulosic biofuel will be referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration in the 113th Congress.

Reps. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, this week introduced the bill, which they say will relieve businesses and consumers from an "unattainable" federal energy mandate.

They say that the EPA's requirement of the petroleum supply to contain a blend of more than 20 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel isn't working, citing the Congressional Research Service's report that cellulosic fuel won't reach commercial volumes until 2015.

Biofuels groups stand behind RFS mandates for cellulosic fuels made from grasses and other material.
Biofuels groups stand behind RFS mandates for cellulosic fuels made from grasses and other material.

Harper and Matheson report that the bill will require the EPA to rely on actual industry production instead of predictions.

"The agency's current method for calculating these fuel standards leaves America's energy suppliers with two options: pay government penalties or buy government credits," Harper said. "Either way, the cost is likely passed through to consumers who are already paying high gas prices."

The penalties, Harper notes, are because of noncompliance fines that energy producers must pay to meet EPA fuel rules.

"To date, companies have paid millions of dollars to the EPA for a fuel that isn't commercially produced and those costs are being passed onto consumers in the form of higher gas prices," Matheson said. "This is a common sense bill that requires the EPA to take into account actual production numbers and protects business and consumers from unrealistic goals resulting in higher costs."

Bill coincides with additional concern about cellulosic fuel standards

The bill comes just after EPA's Jan. 31 announcement proposing that 14 million gallons of cellulosic fuel be produced under the 2013 Renewable Fuels Standard, and a January U.S. Court of Appeals decision which vacated the 2012 cellulosic biofuel standard.

The court reported that it vacated the cellulosic standard because it believed that the EPA set the volume to promote industry growth, rather than making an accurate projection. That complaint falls in line with the legislators' comments, though biofuels groups strongly disagreed with the court's decision, viewing it as an attempt to kill the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Biofuels groups again had similar sentiments about the legislators' new bill. In a press statement, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said the proposal was "bad policy."

"This is nothing more than a well-disguised end run around the RFS, attempting to eliminate the use of biofuels in the commercial marketplace," Buis said. "While supporters claim that this is fair and sensible legislation, all it is actually nothing but pandering to the wishes of the oil industry."

Fuels America also weighed in on the legislation, saying it guarantees that there would never be an incentive to produce more cellulosic biofuel than was made last year.

"Faced with that fact, the real question is whether our country wants alternatives to oil, or not. This bill, and others like it, only ensure one thing: that our economy will continue to be held hostage by the global price of oil by preventing renewable fuel from getting to market," the Fuels America statement said.