As the Environmental Protection Agency readies next year’s renewable-fuel standard, both biofuels producers and gasoline refiners are poised to pounce. No matter where EPA sets the volume requirements for ethanol and other biofuel blends in 2014, the standard is going to face push-back.
“Groups within the biofuel industry are fully committed to challenging the rule in court if the EPA changes how it implements the standard,” said Paul Winters, communications director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. “We want to see the targets continue to be set at the highest-achievable level.”
The biofuels industry is concerned about the 2014 standard because a leaked draft of the proposal showed the agency might reduce the target for renewable fuels from the statutory requirement of 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons next year.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy emphasized in a statement last month that no decisions would be made until all stakeholders had an opportunity to provide input, but the leaked draft made many ethanol producers nervous.
“Having seen the leaked draft, we’ve begun to focus on how it would send a chilling signal about future investment in the industry,” Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, told National Journal Daily. Association members took their concerns to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which must sign off on EPA’s proposal before it is released, possibly as early as Tuesday.
If the final proposal mimics the draft, biofuels producers are threatening swift retaliation. “We will consider every possible avenue available to change the rule,” McAdams said. “We plan to take our message wherever we need to so that we can try and compel a different set of numbers than the ones we’ve already seen.”
The oil industry also is ready to respond if it considers the target too high.
“If the draft is accurate and the proposal mirrors that, we think that EPA would be on the right track, but we think that they should go further to lower the ethanol requirements,” said Bob Greco, the American Petroleum Institute’s downstream group director.
The numbers in the leaked draft would set ethanol requirements at somewhere between 9.8 percent and 10 percent of the total fuel supply for 2014, Greco said. This could mean that the blend wall — the point at which the amount of ethanol mixed with gasoline exceeds 10 percent — is reached. API contends that this could cause a host of problems, including damage to car engines, although biofuels producers say the claim is exaggerated.
“Once we see the proposal we’ll submit comments, testify at hearings, and continue to talk to EPA about why the requirements should be lowered,” Greco said.
Oil- and gas-industry stakeholders also note that while a lower renewable-fuel standard would be a minor victory, the real prize for them would be repeal of the mandate. For that, they have their sights set on Congress.
“This is still just a Band-Aid cure for a longer-term problem,” said Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. “What EPA is doing is triage, and this patient needs to be delivered to Congress.”
A bill to eliminate the standard’s corn-based ethanol requirements — sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Steve Womack, R-Ark. — is pending in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).