US EPA sets 14m gal mandate for cellulosic ethanol this year

31 January 2013 21:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday ordered consumption of 14m gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, a goal hailed by biofuels producers but termed absurd by refiners who noted that there are no commercial volumes of cellulosic ethanol available.

In its proposed 2013 renewable fuels mandate, the EPA said that US refiners and fuels distributors would be obliged to blend 14m gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supplies for this year.

The proposed mandate volume is open to public comment for 45 days.

The 2013 mandate for cellulosic ethanol consumption, 14m gallons, is more than 61% higher than the EPA’s 2012 requirement for use of 8.6m gallons of the biofuel.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) quickly condemned the 2013 cellulosic ethanol mandate, saying that the EPA “needs a serious reality check”.

API Downstream Director Bob Greco noted that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled just last week that the EPA’s 2012 cellulosic ethanol mandate was invalid because there are no commercial supplies of the biofuel available for blending.

“For four years running, biofuel producers have promised high cellulosic ethanol production,” Greco said, adding that the EPA "uses these aspirational claims to set mandates, but the promised production hasn’t happened”.

“With [Thursday's] announcement, EPA has proven yet again that its renewable fuels programme is unworkable and must be scrapped,” Greco said.

But Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), said on Thursday that “the cellulosic biofuels industry is just breaking through at commercial scale” and that the new EPA mandate is “tied directly to the commercial production of cellulosic biofuels expected to come online this year”.

Refiners and fuel blenders that fail to use the mandated volumes of cellulosic ethanol are required to pay EPA a $0.78/gal (€0.58/gal) fine, a penalty that API says amounts to an invalid tax.

($1 = €0.74)

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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