EPA Request For Biofuel Data Signals Renewable Fuel Delays

The Washington Post With Bloomberg

March 24, 2015

By Mario Parker

The Environmental Protection Agency moved Tuesday to gather output data from cellulosic ethanol producers to help it determine the consumption targets. That form of the biofuel is produced from non-edible sources, compared with first-generation grain-based ethanol.

EPA’s request for the data comes as it’s more than 15 months behind a statutory deadline to issue requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard for how much biofuels refiners should have used in 2014, and four months late in releasing targets for this year.

“At a minimum, that could portend delays to the finalization of cellulosic targets,” Timothy Cheung, vice president and research analyst a ClearView Energy Partners LLC, a Washington-based policy analytical firm, wrote in a note Tuesday.

Biofuel and petroleum interests have battled on whether the 2007 energy law is tenable.

Last November, EPA decided to put off setting 2014 quotas, saying it would issue rules for last year, 2015 and 2016, this year.

In February, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rules would be issued “very soon.”

Public Comments

Today’s notice asks for public comments on the possible request to collect information from the cellulosic producers. The responses are due by May 26, leaving a scarce amount of time for the agency to meet its “self-imposed June 20 deadline to propose the multiyear RFS package,” Cheung wrote.

“This does not impact the volume rule in terms of timing, numbers or policy,” EPA said in an e-mailed statement. “It is simply a step to stay in compliance with the paperwork reduction act.”

Compliance with the standard is tracked by Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, certificates attached to each gallon of biofuel. Once a refiner blends biofuel into petroleum, they can keep the RINs or trade them to another party.

Advanced biofuel RINs for 2015 jumped 2 percent to 75.5 cents, while 2015 corn-based ethanol RINs increased 1.1 percent to 67.25 cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In deciding the consumption mandates, EPA is likely to align 2014’s requirement with how much biofuel refiners used and base 2015 and 2016 on gasoline consumption and biofuel production, Aakash Doshi, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in New York, said in a report earlier this month.

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