Lawmakers and biofuel industry officials blasted the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday for delays in releasing its biofuel blending mandates, with one Republican congressman saying it comes close to qualifying as a “broken campaign promise.”
At a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois also said the delay and a lack of responsiveness from the administration on its plans are fueling speculation that the administration may reduce the targets.
"We encourage the president to keep his 2020 promises to rural America and actually uphold the law," Davis said.
“The annual blending requirements are woefully delayed, and in recent weeks, unsettling media reports indicate that EPA may turn its back on greater biofuel blending,” Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, told the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit.
Skor said “rumors that we have heard (are) that this EPA is looking to reopen the 2020 blending requirements," which she said was both “unprecedented” and illegal.
The renewable volume obligations are “going to be really the (Biden administration's) first test to show that they are committed to low-carbon renewable fuels that can be used in our current auto fleet,” Skor said, stressing that EPA needs "to be at 15 billion gallons of conventional blending."
Each year, the RVOs are due by Nov. 30, the deadline set by Congress in the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA, however, has not issued a rule to establish those obligations for either 2021 or 2022. A proposed rule has been under review at the Office of Management and Budget since late August.
“We're already well past our 2021 blending obligations,” Skor said. “We've got to get 2022 out so that we get back on track, which is something that the administration had committed it would do at the outset, the beginning of the year.”
Davis also criticized the administration for not making assistance available to biofuels producers for COVID-related market disruptions. "We're still waiting 11 months into this administration, and no biofuels producers have seen any relief,” he said.
Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.
Skor also echoed the remarks of representatives such as Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and Angie Craig, D-Minn., in advocating for year-round use of E15, use of which was struck down by a federal appeals court in July. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to allow for the year-round sales.
“We cannot realize the full potential of low carbon renewable fuels without year-round access to E15,” Skor said.
Democratic representatives noted that there is $1 billion earmarked in the pending Build Back Better bill to subsidize biofuels infrastructure, a provision championed by Axne.
Skor said the investment “really would unleash the power of biofuels. It gives us the ability to work with our retail partners to accelerate the market inclusion of E15, which is a lower-cost, lower carbon higher value fuel choice for consumers.”
Portions of the hearing also focused on the growing role of soybeans in the bioeconomy, in the use of plastics, synthetic fiber and other products as well as in renewable diesel and high-oleic foods.
Also testifying were Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC in Georgia, on behalf of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Gary Wheeler, executive director of Missouri Soybean Association, on behalf of American Soybean Association; Jessica Bowman, executive director of the Plant Based Products Council in Washington, D.C.; Nan Stolzenburg, principal consulting planner at Community Planning & Environmental Associates in Berne, New York; and Randy Aberle, executive vice president of agribusiness and capital markets at AgCountry Farm Credit Services in Fargo, North Dakota.