| WASHINGTON, July 30
WASHINGTON, July 30 The U.S. biofuel industry is
urging the Obama administration to go beyond simply raising
proposed targets for use of the fuels, making the case instead
for fundamental changes to the government's approach to the
renewable fuel program.
There has been a flurry of meetings between biofuel backers
and White House officials in advance of the release of the
long-delayed targets for the use of renewable fuels this year,
which are expected to reach the Office of Management and Budget
for review within weeks.
The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of
biofuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel supplies each
year through 2022.
The targets for this year have been plagued by repeated
delays amid outcry from biofuel producers, such as Abengoa
Bioenergy, Green Plains Inc and Pacific
Ethanol Inc, who say a draft plan slashing the 2014
standards could significantly harm the industry.
Biofuel industry sources said in May the Environmental
Protection Agency would likely raise proposed
Based on rising gasoline demand, the corn ethanol portion of
the mandate is widely expected to be increased to about 13.6
billion gallons (49 billion liters) from 13 billion announced in
But the key message biofuel groups have delivered to the
administration has been that their industry's future viability
hinges on more than just tweaking volume requirements for the
Meeting with senior White House adviser John Podesta last
week, the Advanced Biofuels Association pressed the White House
to speed up approvals of new fuels that can qualify as advanced
and cellulosic fuels, known as pathways.
"We really tried to focus on how important it was to get
pathways approved in a more expeditious way so we can actually
bring more gallons to market," ABFA President Michael McAdams
told Reuters. Seven top executives of companies waiting on
approvals also attended the meeting.
More than 35 applications for new biofuel sources are
pending at the EPA, with an average wait time of two years. The
delays keep fuels off the market because would-be buyers cannot
get credit under the biofuel mandate to purchase them.
BETTER CORN ETHANOL EMISSIONS?
While advanced biofuel producers seek the inclusion of new
fuels, some corn growers have lobbied to protect the grain's
position in the renewable fuel program.
Earlier this month, Congressman Bill Foster, Democrat of
Illinois, and a group of lawmakers and scientists from the state
met with White House officials including top energy and climate
adviser Dan Utech.
They argued the White House should reconsider its estimates
of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for corn ethanol as it
weighs both the final targets for 2014 and the fuel's role in
the administration's broader climate policy.
Corn-based ethanol is currently classified as a
"conventional biofuel" that delivers only a 20-percent emissions
improvement over gasoline. Some environmental groups have
blasted the fuel as not much better than fossil fuels and
critics have proposed stripping corn ethanol out of the mandate.
As the Obama administration focuses on its climate legacy,
changing the EPA's findings on potential emission reductions
from corn ethanol could shore up support in the administration
and help fend off future attacks on the fuel.
"The carbon footprint and economics of corn-based ethanol
are vastly improved from a decade ago," Foster said, noting
less-energy intensive farming practices and more complete use of
The White House asked the scientists for additional
information about their research on corn ethanol emissions, said
David Beaudreau, a consultant representing the Illinois Corn
"They were intrigued and wanted to know more," Beaudreau
BLOCKING BLEND WALL ARGUMENT
For the Renewable Fuels Association, it is not the final
levels for this year so much as the justification behind them
that is most concerning.
The group has urged the EPA to not use the shortage of
gasoline stations currently able to sell fuel with higher levels
of ethanol as a reason to cut biofuel targets, arguing that it
would set a precedent that could permanently limit the program's
The EPA has justified lowering the 2014 target as necessary
because U.S. fuel markets cannot absorb the amounts of ethanol
called for by federal law, a problem known as the "blend wall."
That argument would embolden oil companies to prevent growth
in biofuel use simply by not investing in new fuel pumps, said
RFA president Bob Dinneen.
"We are going to sell a heck of a lot of ethanol this year
no matter what," he said. "If EPA guts the program by turning it
over to Exxon Mobil, you will never see that again."
(Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons, Editing by Ros Krasny
and Marguerita Choy)