New American standards will lead to greater use of biofuels

In a controversial move, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a new regulation that will raise the amount of biofuels that will be used in blends of vehicle fuels, according to an article by Diane Cardwell in the New York Times


E.P.A. Rule Requires a Big Jump in Biofuel Use

The Environmental Protection Agency released its much-delayed biofuel mandate on Monday, raising the amounts of biofuel that refiners are required to blend into conventional vehicle fuel from levels proposed in May.

The agency set levels for 2014 and 2015 at what producers actually used in those years, and it increased the total volume of renewable fuel required by the end of 2016 to 18.11 billion gallons, an 11 percent increase from 2014, the agency said.

“The biofuel industry is an incredible American success story, and the R.F.S. program has been an important driver of that success — cutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and sparking rural economic development,” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for E.P.A.’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a conference call with reporters. “With today’s final rule, and as Congress intended, E.P.A. is establishing volumes that grow the amount of biofuel in the market over time.”

But the new standards did little to appease critics, who come from many quarters. To some, the new standards did not address what a growing number say are fundamental problems with the mandate and the way it is administered.

The E.P.A. has struggled over the years to determine how much biofuel to require for a number of reasons, including a limit known as the “blend wall,” which restricts the proportion of ethanol that vehicles can safely handle. Most gasoline now contains 10 percent ethanol, and only a small fraction of the country’s vehicles are approved by manufacturers to use gasoline that contains more.

In addition, the program is losing support among environmentalists who say that it does not reduce carbon emissions when compared with conventional fuel. The assumption that it does, John M. DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, said in a conference call with reporters last week, stems from a flawed accounting of the amount of carbon dioxide that is recycled by productive farmland through the normal growth of crops used to make biofuel.

Despite all the disagreement, there is a growing consensus in Congress that the program is in need of reform, said Scott H. Segal, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani who heads the firm’s Policy Resolution Group.

“The program is broken, has become hotly politicized and lacks the kind of foundational scientific support that you would normally associate with major societal investments,” he said. “While there are problems, ethanol is here to stay. They need to mend it, not end it.”

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