U.S. EPA ups biofuel targets slightly, draws scorn from refiners

(Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it will require fuel companies to blend slightly more biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel next year, angering oil refiners who view them as a competitive threat.

FILE PHOTO – A pump at an alternative fueling station that provides fuel other than gasoline is shown in San Diego, California January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The announcement follows weeks of lobbying by Midwestern lawmakers and representatives of the corn industry who wanted the agency to reject recent proposals from the oil industry to water down the U.S. biofuels mandates.

“Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to … upholding the rule of law,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a news release.

Pruitt is expected to travel to an invitation-only event in Iowa on Friday and highlight the administration’s commitment to the ethanol industry.

The U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply every year as a way to boost U.S. agriculture, slash energy imports and cut emissions.

The law, introduced more than a decade ago by then-President George W. Bush, has been a boon to the corn belt but has upset the oil industry, which sees biofuels as competition and which has been burdened with the costly responsibility of blending.

The 2018 targets require fuel companies to blend 19.29 billion gallons (73.02 billion liters) of renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply, up slightly from the 19.28 billion gallons required for 2017.

That will include 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels like corn-based ethanol, in line with 2017, and 4.29 billion gallons of so-called advanced biofuels, up from 4.28 billion in 2017, the EPA said. Advanced or second-generation biofuels are made from lignocellulosic biomass or woody crops, agricultural residues or waste.

For 2019, the EPA set a target for biodiesel at 2.1 billion gallons, unchanged from 2018.

The targets adhere to the EPA’s proposal made in July for both conventional biofuels and biodiesel, but reverses a proposal by the agency to slightly reduce total advanced volumes to 4.24 billion gallons in 2018.

“KING CORN”

After consultations with the oil industry, the EPA had opened the door to cuts to the biofuels volumes targets and was considering other ideas to ease the burden on…

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