GRAPEVINE, Texas, Feb. 19, 2015 – Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen launched RFA’s National Ethanol Conference here in Texas Thursday with a direct attack on EPA. EPA responded with an apology and a promise to deliver the long overdue biofuels volume requirements sometime this spring.
Dinneen’s opening speech (video or text) charged that when the EPA proposed in 2013 to cut its 2014 biofuels blending requirement from the 14.4 billion gallon level set by Congress to just 13 billion gallons, “a devastatingly negative signal was sent to farmers making planting decisions, marketers weighing whether or not to install blender pumps to enable E15, and investors determining the efficacy of cellulosic ethanol market opportunities.”
Dinneen said EPA’s proposal to roll back the volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was a major blow to developing cellulosic ethanol. Last year, he said, “cellulosic ethanol was definitively commercialized, ushering in a new era of ethanol production technology and silencing the naysayers who have carped about phantom fuels and pixie dust.” He said that by launching commercial scale plants, POET-DSM, Quad County Corn Processors, Abengoa Bioenergy and Dupont “have demonstrated that cellulosic feedstocks can cost-effectively compete in this market.”
Dinneen said that by proposing to reduce RFS requirements -- in response to Big Oil, he charged -- EPA prevented what would have been “exponential growth” in the production of cellulosic ethanol from crop residues and other waste products.
Rather than allow EPA decisions to continue hurting ethanol, Dinneen said the industry “will work with EPA to put the RFS back on a trajectory that shatters the blend wall and motivates investment in new technologies as Congress intended when it passed the RFS with broad bipartisan support.”
Dinneen acknowledged that EPA faces tough challenges “made significantly more challenging by an oil industry that is intent upon undermining the (renewable fuels) program at every opportunity; refusing to make the investments in infrastructure to accommodate higher level blends, bullying their franchisees from offering E15 (15 percent ethanol blend); and spending lavishly from their taxpayer-padded coffers to manufacture angst, recreate legislative history, and propagate a narrative about America’s energy future that ignores reality.”
Dinneen said that after EPA’s disastrous failure to move ahead with the RFS in 2014, “2015 may well be the same as the agency remains paralyzed, trapped between a statute driving marketplace change and an incumbent industry intent upon preserving the status quo.”
He also blasted EPA for continuing to use long disproven models based on “debunked projections of indirect land use change.”
“Real world data show conclusively that cropland in many regions has been reduced since the RFS began, forestland in key regions has increased, and ethanol production from corn in the United States today is at least 34 percent better than gasoline. Farmers responded to increased demand and higher prices by using existing cropland more efficiently – not by converting forest and grassland to crops.”
Dinneen called on EPA to incorporate current research and “recognize that while ethanol’s carbon footprint is improving, gasoline’s is getting worse with every well drilled for fracking and every tree sacrificed for tar sands.”
In response to Dinneen’s litany of EPA errors, EPA Office of Air Quality and Transportation Director Christopher Grundler told the conference (audio) that he came to Texas to “personally tell you all how sorry I am that we did not get our work done, we did not finalize the standard in 2014 that I promised we would.” Calling EPA’s continuing failure to announce the long overdue 2014 and 2015 RFS volume levels unacceptable, Grundler said EPA is “determined to get the RFS back on track this year.”
Grundler said EPA’s plan now is “to put out a proposal this spring that will address 2014, 2015, and 2016. We believe that by doing so we can get back on to the statutory schedule that is laid out in the law.” He insisted that despite the continuing delays, EPA’s goal is “to get the RFS back on track and provide for long-term growth of renewable fuels.”
Along with resolving RFS issues, Grundler said EPA has put new procedures in place to accelerate the EPA approvals process. He said EPA is also incorporating the latest science and data in its search for the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions. But he also pointed out that EPA faces challenges from budget constraints, staff shortages, a constant barrage of law suits from all directions, and the reality that “Protecting the planet is not for sissies.”
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