Ethanol Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Shoulder-high stalks are seen in a corn field July 5, 2006 in Prairie View, Illinois. Despite above average precipitation this spring, a devasting drought last summer that dragged into early 2006 continues to pose a threat to crops. Last year's corn crop was able to weather the drought thanks to saved-up soil moisture, a factor experts say is missing this year. Despite the concerns, this year's crop is well ahead of last year, according to experts.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Dec. 12, 2013, 2:52 a.m.

The bio­fuels in­dustry is fa­cing polit­ic­al battles in Europe as well as the United States.

And policy is un­settled on both sides of the At­lantic.

Re­u­ters re­ports that European Uni­on en­ergy min­is­ters failed Thursday to reach an agree­ment that would lim­it use of fuels made from food crops.

“Last year in re­sponse to warn­ings about food price in­fla­tion and un­in­ten­ded con­sequences on the en­vir­on­ment, the European Com­mis­sion, the EU’s ex­ec­ut­ive, pro­posed to cap the bloc’s use of crop-based bio­fuels at 5 per­cent,” the news ser­vice re­ports.

In the U.S., mean­while, the eth­an­ol in­dustry is bat­tling a Novem­ber En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency pro­pos­al that would scale back the amount of eth­an­ol that re­finers must blend in­to gas­ol­ine next year.

The top­ic was front and cen­ter at a Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Wed­nes­day.

Na­tion­al Journ­al re­ports here on planned le­gis­la­tion touted at the hear­ing that would ease the fed­er­al eth­an­ol blend­ing man­date.

Bloomberg has a dis­patch from the Sen­ate hear­ing that fo­cuses on EPA’s de­fense of its pro­pos­al. From their story:

“The En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency de­term­ined that it’s not feas­ible for gas­ol­ine re­finers to use as much eth­an­ol next year as had been man­dated, which is why the agency pro­posed eas­ing the re­quire­ment, an EPA of­fi­cial said.”

But the bio­fuels in­dustry also got some good news this week.

The Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment and the Navy an­nounced plans aimed at ex­pand­ing the Navy’s use of re­new­able fuels in jet en­gines and ships.

The Navy has for years been test­ing out the in­creased use of bio­fuels. The agen­cies said Wed­nes­day that they’re tak­ing the next step to­ward mak­ing “ad­vanced” bio­fuels—that is, not tra­di­tion­al corn eth­an­ol—a reg­u­lar part of mil­it­ary pro­cure­ment in the com­ing years.

“The an­nounce­ment in­cor­por­ates the ac­quis­i­tion of bio­fuel blends in­to reg­u­lar De­part­ment of De­fense (DOD) do­mest­ic so­li­cit­a­tions for jet en­gine and mar­ine dies­el fuels,” the Navy and Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment said in a joint re­lease.

“Today’s an­nounce­ment marks the first time al­tern­at­ive fuels such as ad­vanced drop-in bio­fuels will be avail­able for pur­chase through reg­u­lar pro­cure­ment prac­tices. It lowers bar­ri­ers for al­tern­at­ive do­mest­ic fuel sup­pli­ers to do busi­ness with DOD,” they said.

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