Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge EPA to ‘Chart New Course for Biofuels’
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators on Friday urged the Environmental Protection Agency to use its upcoming decision on the Renewable Fuel Standard to “chart a new course for biofuels” to meet the nation’s “diverse energy demands.”
In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, 13 senators led by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the agency has “a historic opportunity” before it to “reinforce its efforts to restore integrity to the RFS” and decarbonize numerous sectors of the economy.
The EPA is expected to issue a proposed rule by Nov. 16.
“Through [the upcoming 2023] rulemaking, EPA will determine blending volumes according to a set of environmental and economic factors in the statute,” they wrote. “Strong [renewable volume obligations] will be bolstered by numerous incentives and investments that are poised to increase biofuel blending and further reduce the carbon intensity of these fuels.
“Additionally, we request that EPA take supportive actions to provide regulatory certainty and afford new opportunities for these homegrown fuels to deepen their contribution to America’s evolving energy landscape,” they continued.
In a change from prior years, the EPA will now determine RFS volumes based on a set of environmental and economic factors and guardrails in the statute. Advocates for biofuels such as ethanol laud it as a means to reducing greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions and lowering prices at the pump — benefiting the environment and consumers.
In addition to setting robust blending targets, the senators also urged that the EPA use the upcoming rulemaking as a timely opportunity to insert greater certainty and efficiency in the regulatory landscape of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“As previously addressed, accurate and standardized lifecycle emissions modeling will not only assign appropriate tax credit values and motivate continued decarbonization of biofuels, but updated lifecycle emissions values also justify growth in RFS volumes to accelerate transportation decarbonization,” they wrote.
“Contemporary carbon intensity scoring will help settle recurring questions regarding the net environmental benefit of biofuels, permitting stakeholders to readily compare the carbon footprint of biofuels against other technologies,” the senators continued.
“Finally securing reliable, EPA-endorsed lifecycle analysis will encourage increased use of biofuels in domestic low-carbon fuel markets and expand export opportunities to the growing number of countries turning to biofuels to meet their energy needs and climate action goals, such as Canada, India, and Japan,” they said.
The National Corn Growers Association has also weighed in with the EPA on RFS volume obligations in 2023 and beyond.
In a statement on its website, NCGA President Tom Haag said corn growers appreciate the senators’ bipartisan advocacy for renewable fuels as the EPA prepares to open a new chapter of the fuel standard.
“EPA has a prime opportunity here to use the RFS as an even stronger tool in efforts to cut emissions, address climate change, increase our domestic fuel supply, hold down prices and continue to grow rural economies,” Haag said.
Through 2022, the RFS statute specified annual volume targets for renewable fuels, reaching an implied volume of 15 billion gallons for ethanol. Beginning with 2023, the EPA will determine RFS volumes based on a set of qualitative environmental, economic and agriculture factors, providing the EPA with paths to grow the RFS and renewable fuel use.
In addition to Thune and Durbin, the other senators who signed the letter were Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.