The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule Dec. 7 to revise the 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements and introduce regulatory changes intended to “enhance the objectives of the program”.

In addition, the EPA will seek public comment on a proposed decision to deny more than 60 exemption requests from small refineries.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said, “Despite multiple challenging dynamics affecting the RFS program in recent years, EPA remains committed to the growth of biofuels in America as a critical strategy to secure a future clean and carbon-free energy. This package of actions will enable us to put the RFS program back into growth mode by setting ambitious levels for 2022 and strengthening the program’s foundation so that it is anchored in science and law.

For 2022, the EPA is proposing the highest total volumes in history, more than 3.5 billion gallons more than the volume of renewable fuel used in 2020.

The proposed advanced biofuel renewable fuels (RVO) requirement for 2022 is more than 1 billion gallons higher than the volume used in 2020. The EPA is also proposing to add an “additional requirement” of 250 million gallons to the volumes proposed for 2022 and indicating its intention to add an additional 250 million gallons in 2023. The EPA says this would settle the dismissal of the 2014-2016 annual rule by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Americans for Clean Energy v. EPA.

The EPA is proposing volumes for 2021 at the level it expects the market to use by the end of the year. Additionally, the EPA suggested revising the 2020 standards to reflect challenges the program and market faced that year, including from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposed volume requirements for 2020-2022 (billion gallons)

Category 2020 2021 2022
Cellulosic biofuel 0.51 0.62 0.77
Biomass-based diesel 2.43 2.43 2.76
Advanced Biofuel 4.63 5.20 5.77
Total renewable fuel 17.13 18.52 20.77
Additional standard N / A N / A 0.25
Source: US Environmental Protection Agency | www.epa.gov
*All values ​​are equivalent to ethanol based on energy consultation, except BBD which is equivalent to biodiesel

This action also proposes a regulatory framework to include biointermediates in the RFS program while ensuring the implementation of environmental and programmatic safeguards.

By providing producers with a way to use bio-intermediates – a feedstock that has been partially converted at one facility but is then sent to a separate facility for final processing into an RFS-qualified biofuel – the EPA foresees potential reducing biofuel production costs and expanding opportunities for more cost-effective biomass-based diesel, advanced and cellulosic biofuels.

Following the release of the EPA’s proposed volume standards, several renewable fuels associations and councils criticized the notion.

Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council, said, “We appreciate the EPA’s recognition of 20-25% annual growth in the D3/cellulosic category, 95% of which is renewable natural gas made from from biogas. However, we have seen real industry growth this year that is twice as high. We therefore encourage the EPA to revise these cellulosic volumes upwards in the final rule.

“Furthermore, we continue to be extremely disappointed that the EPA has again failed to recognize renewable electricity from biogas in its volumes, for now, the seventh year in a row. We implore the EPA to take action. quickly to approve the dozens of projects already registered and to increase the RVO for cellulosic biofuel to recognize this additional production of renewable fuel for battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), on the other hand, criticized the EPA’s proposal to reduce the 2020 RVOs. However, the association also pointed out that the proposed RVOs for 2021 and 2022, as well as the proposed action for refusing more than 60 requests for exemption for small refineries (SRE), are a step in the right direction.

“Over the past four years, RFA has led the charge to end the previous EPA’s illegal abuse of the small refinery waiver clause,” said Geoff Cooper, RFA President and CEO. “We commend EPA Administrator Michael Regan and the Biden administration for denying all pending exemptions for small refineries, and we are extremely pleased to see the Agency closing the floodgates on these destructive exemptions. Under the previous administration, these exemptions destroyed demand for more than 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel, resulting in higher consumer fuel prices, increased GHG emissions and lower farm incomes. Today’s announcement should finally put an end to the widespread abuse of the exemption program that we have experienced under the last government.

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