House Biofuels Caucus asks EPA to increase RFS RVOs

By Erin Voegele | October 19, 2017

On Oct. 19, the House Biofuels Caucus sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asking the agency to formulate a more robust final rule regarding renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Reductions in volume obligations would be devastating to the industry and the jobs it supports,” wrote the caucus.

The letter notes that the biofuels industry helps diversify the domestic fuel supply, which proved helpful during recent Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma disasters. “Setting strong renewable volume obligations (RVOs) increases our resiliency,” said the caucus in the letter.

The caucus stresses it supports the EPA’s decision to set the target for conventional biofuels at the statutory maximum of 15 billion gallons next year, but expressed disappointment in the proposed RVOs for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel.

The 2018 proposed volume for advanced biofuel is 4.24 billion gallons, a reduction from the 2017 RVO for advanced biofuels. The caucus said the reduction “falls far short of Congressional intent of the RFS. This sends the wrong signal to investors, especially as technological advancements continue to improve capabilities in second generation biofuels.”

The caucus said the same concern applies for the proposed 2019 RVOs for biomass-based diesel. “We believe the rule should be improved to better reflect the capacity of our domestic biofuel industry,” the caucus wrote.

Within the letter, the caucus also expressed concern over the EPA’s recent notice of data availability (NODA), which contemplates further reductions in the amount of advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel. In addition, the caucus criticized reports that the EPA is considering to allow renewable identification numbers (RINs) to be attached to exported volumes of biofuels.

“Our farmers and biofuels producers need greater certainty from the EPA when it comes to setting RVO standards for upcoming years, and the proposals discovered in the NODA and reports only create unnecessary angst,” wrote the caucus. “We hope the EPA will more accurately evaluate the capabilities of our advanced ethanol and biodiesel producers and issue a stronger volume standards rule. We urge you to make these improvements as you finalize volume requirements for 2018 and 2019.”

Growth Energy applauded the caucus for sending the letter. “The proposed changes are inconsistent with the law and threaten the growth and prosperity of the U.S. biofuels industry, along with farmers and rural communities across the heartland,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said.

“We are encouraged by our champions in the House who understand the value of biofuels and who are standing united together in an effort to keep the EPA accountable to Congress’ intent when it passed the RFS. As a nation, we cannot lose sight of everything we have achieved since the enactment of the RFS,” Skor continued.

“The RFS has promoted economic growth and energy security by supporting American jobs and insulating our markets against the volatile price of oil from foreign, and often hostile, nations,” Skor said.  “We’ve made our air cleaner by blending ethanol into our fuel mix, as it reduces harmful emissions and displaces toxic chemicals in gasoline. Furthermore, higher ethanol blends provide consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.”

“Backpedaling on the RFS will jeopardize all of this progress, but what’s even more concerning is that it will hinder our ability to go even further,” she continued. “We applaud the signers of this letter for taking that message to the EPA.”

The Renewable Fuels Association has also spoken out in support of the caucus. “We thank the House Biofuels Caucus for writing to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt today, urging him to finalize ‘a more robust’ 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard rule that increases the requirements for cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuel and biomass-based diesel,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “As the letter noted, our nation’s farmers and biofuel producers need greater certainty from EPA to ensure we are able to meet the annual RFS targets. The RFS has already made tremendous inroads, providing consumers with the cleanest, lowest cost and highest octane fuel on the planet, but EPA needs to finalize a strong RFS in order to maintain that progress. We thank the House Biofuels Caucus members for their letter and look forward to working with the agency to ensure a strong 2018 RFS requirement.”