EPA Raises Ethanol Quota for 2017
Refiners Required to Blend 19.2 Billion Gallons of Renewables
Since its inception in 2005, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) has been controversial. It was initially implemented in hopes of jump-starting research and development on next-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol and sustainably produced biodiesel. Instead, the majority of “renewable” fuel has come from conventional sources such as corn, which has been a boon to Midwestern farmers but an environmental disaster, according to others. Use of fertilizers and the fuel and energy needed to harvest and process the crops outweighs any environmental benefit, critics argue. However, a strong agricultural lobby has secured the RFS as an ongoing mandate, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to raise the renewable fuel quota for 2017, up to 19.28 billion gallons of renewables blended into gasoline and diesel fuel. As much as 15 billion gallons are expected to be conventionally produced corn ethanol.
It has become increasingly difficult for many motorists to find ethanol-free gasoline, sought after by boat owners and owners of older cars with fuel systems that can be susceptible to corrosion caused by ethanol. In an odd convergence of interests, both petroleum refiners and environmental groups have been outspoken critics of the RFS, for different reasons. Oil refiners complain the mandate increases their production costs, and environmentalists say the promise of next-generation renewables has not come to fruition, with ethanol producers overwhelmingly choosing to process corn as the primary feedstock.