The EPA proposed an expansion of its biofuel program; here’s what that means

Biden Ethanol

FILE – An ethanol refinery is shown on July 22, 2021, in Chancellor, S.D. The Biden administration set new requirements Friday, June 3, 2022, that increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply but reduce previous ethanol-blending requirements due to a plunge in fuel demand during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves, File)

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new set of Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) on Thursday which would increase the required amounts of renewable fuels that fuel refiners have to add to fossil fuels like gasoline.

RFS is a program that requires oil refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel mixes or buy fuel credits known as RINs from those refiners that do. The new standards would increase the targets over the next three years from 20.8 to 22.7 billion gallons of renewable fuels.

Most gasoline that a typical consumer buys is actually a blend made up of around 10% ethanol, a primarily corn-based fuel, to reduce the amount of gasoline used. Newer vehicles can use what is sometimes called FlexFuel or E15, a 15% ethanol blend, but the ethanol-rich fuel isn’t sold between June and September due to concerns of it causing smog.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, along with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a bipartisan group of legislators in October urging the EPA to take action to maximize the use of biofuels, especially through high-ethanol gasoline blends like E15.

“Even during this time of sustained energy challenges, E15 was sold for as much a 96 cents cheaper per gallon than E10 under the emergency waiver. We encourage EPA to utilize any authority at its disposal to extend year-round E15 into the future,” the letter said.

Additionally, the new standards would implement a new system for companies to collect eRINs, which are RINs accrued by powering electric vehicles with electricity generated from renewable biofuels.

The letter expressed concern with the potential for e-RINs to detract from the program.

“They must also be subject to the same rigorous transparency, integrity, and lifecycle analysis standards as other renewable transportation fuels. Failure to do so will displace biofuels that have been foundational to decarbonizing the transportation sector, leave additional environmental gains on the table, and hinder industry growth,” the letter said.

On Wednesday, Thune joined a bi-partisan group of senators to introduce the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2022, which would allow for the year-round sale of high-ethanol fuel blends on a permanent basis.

EPA will hold a virtual public hearing on January 10, 2023, for the proposed rule. If you would like to attend, please register by sending an email to RFS-Hearing@epa.gov.

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