All Eyes on EPA

By Bob Dinneen | May 11, 2012

Capitol Hill has become an increasingly frustrating place for many who wish to see thoughtful, forward-looking legislation put into law. In that context, many have come to think of Washington as a place where nothing of consequence can happen, particularly in even-numbered election years. For America’s ethanol industry, that is not necessarily the case.

Since the beginning of 2012, Washington has been a very busy place for biofuels. It is true that little is happening in Congress with respect to biofuels. But elsewhere inside the Beltway, biofuels are garnering a great deal of attention. Nowhere is this truer than the offices of the Ariel Rios Building—home to the mobile source division of the U.S. EPA.  

Without a close second, EPA’s forward march with respect to E15 will have the greatest impact on ethanol producers. With the finalization of the E15 partial waiver in January, the adoption of the health effects testing and misfueling mitigation plan, and registrations from ethanol producers and fuel supplies being accepted, EPA has been ground zero for the expansion of domestic ethanol use and the fight for more fuel choice at the pump.

It is no secret that a move to E15 in America’s fuel supply will have profound impacts on our domestic ethanol industry, fuel consumers, and our nation as a whole. It will increase demand for a domestically produced renewable fuel, reduce the amount of petroleum needed to fuel our vehicles and lower the price for all driving Americans. The importance of E15 is why the RFA has spent considerable time and resources in assuring a smooth transition to E15 from the federal level on down. With all federal requirements now met, E15 marches on to the states and, hopefully, to corner gas stations near you.

Expanding ethanol markets isn’t the only influence EPA is having on our industry. The continued implementation of the renewable fuel standard, including the current lawsuit surrounding the 2012 volumes, is creating numerous opportunities for EPA to have an impact on existing ethanol producers and new technology developers alike. Likewise, greenhouse gas regulations such as those included in what is known as EPA’s Tailoring rule could put new and unnecessary regulatory burdens on ethanol producers. The changes being contemplated by EPA could force existing ethanol producers to install costly new technologies simply to come into compliance with arbitrary greenhouse gas limits set by EPA. The list doesn’t stop there. New fuel standards and vehicle emission regulations may seem to be the province of automakers, but if constituted correctly, could present opportunities for ethanol and biofuels by creating demand for clean octane to power America’s automotive fleet.

Even though Congress seems unable to pass much in the way of legislation, it doesn’t mean all is clear for ethanol. Our industry must remain engaged at the regulatory level to inform regulators about the realities of the industry on the ground and the very real world impacts their proposed regulations will have. I encourage all of you to remain abreast of these issues and use the RFA website, www.ethanolrfa.org, as a resource. All of the activities being contemplated at EPA and other federal agencies have the potential to impact our industry. We must remain vigilant and ensure these regulations are crafted to encourage the maximum amount of domestic ethanol use as possible.

Author: Bob Dinneen
President and CEO of the
Renewable Fuels Association
(202) 289-3835