Last week, the EPA quietly published the 2017 volume requirements and associated percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program passed into law by Congress several years ago. The law requires oil companies to blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels like ethanol with gasoline and diesel. Under the law, the EPA has the authority to designate volume requirements,which according to the 2007 law passed by Congress must reach 36 billion gallons by the year 2022. However, the law does provide the EPA with some authority to lower the annual volumes as circumstances warrant.
The 2017 requirements were published just days before the Thanksgiving holiday. Every year, the EPA adjusts the amount of renewable fuel it requires oil refiners to pump into the nation’s gas supply. After initially signaling lower renewable fuel goals, the agency reversed course. According to the EPA Press Release, total renewable fuel volumes grew by 1.2 billion gallons from 2016 to 2017, a 6 percent increase. Ethanol enthusiasts were quick to praise the EPA. Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from the corn-producing state of Iowa, released a statement saying this:
”I am pleased the EPA has finally listened to the American people as well as the comments my colleagues and I have pushed forward, and set the final volume requirements for conventional biofuels for 2017 at appropriate and congressionally approved levels. The RFS is critical in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and provides consumers with choices at the pump. Most importantly, it spurs investment and research in renewable fuels and supports our rural economy in Iowa.”
Critics of the RFS program were not shy to voice their opinion on the EPA announcement. The American Petroleum Institute called the increase “irresponsible” and a bad deal for the American consumer and again called for repeal or significant reform. The American Petroleum Institute represents the oil and natural gas industry in Washington,DC.
The U.S. Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the issue released a statement signed by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Pete Olson (R-TX), and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL). The statement indicated that they still believed the “right balance” needed to found on the issue of ethanol, but they praised EPA for meeting its statutory deadlines set forth in the 2007 law and vowed to continue to monitor the issue going forward.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF)and other consumers of small-engine motors continue to have concerns about the effects of higher blends of ethanol in gasoline and the potential to cause severe damage to their bikes. The MRF is working with stakeholders on both sides of the ethanol debate to negotiate common sense alternatives that would allow the RFS program to continue while keeping in mind the interests of the American street biker.