US refiners, petchems challenge EPA ethanol rule

05 May 2009 21:29  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US refiners and petrochemical producers warned on Tuesday that federal plans to implement new biofuels mandates lack scientific basis and ignore commercial and market realities.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said that regulations proposed earlier on Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce higher ethanol production and consumption mandates fall short in several areas.

The EPA announced its proposed regulations for raising US production and use of biofuels to 36bn gallons annually by 2022, a mandate known as the renewable fuels standard (RFS) and required by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

Current US bio-ethanol production is about 10.5bn gal/year, almost wholly based on corn. The nation has another 2bn gal/year of grain ethanol production capacity that is idle due to the recession, lower fuel prices and lower demand.

The rules proposed by EPA on Tuesday would establish percentage-based standards that refiners, importers and blenders of gasoline and diesel fuel would have to use year-by-year to meet the 36bn gal/year goal set for 2022.

However, NPRA president Charlie Drevna said that the proposed EPA plan for enforcing the new ethanol mandate does not resolve “questions of commercial viability, product liability and the lack of adequate scientific review”.

He said he hopes that during the 60-day comment period for the proposed regulations “EPA will seriously and transparently consider the concerns raised by fuel, public health, environmental and engine manufacturing interests” before making the rules final.

He cited earlier concerns raised by environmentalists, chemical companies, health groups and automotive interests who charge that federal ethanol mandates contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, divert agricultural land from food production, lower US energy efficiency and pose risks to automobile engine operations.

The EPA proposed rule was issued as part of a multi-agency effort by the Obama administration to shore-up the US ethanol industry, including emergency funding.  The announcement of a special interagency task force to advance ethanol interests was welcomed by the US biofuels industry.

The proposed RFS enforcement rule is open to public comment until early July.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels 

By: Joe Kamalick
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