The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized requirements for the renewable fuel standard (RFS) Thursday without making any major changes to the much-talked about program.
The final standards for 2018 are slightly changed from proposed standards the EPA issued in July, when officials proposed 238 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. They ultimately settled on a 288 million gallons standard.
“Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to meet the statutory deadlines and lead the Agency by upholding the rule of law,” EPA Chief Scott Pruitt said in a press statement announcing the updated standards.
Standards for biomass diesel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel mix remained unchanged. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to finalize the standards by Nov. 30th of the following year.
The RFS requires refiners to blend large amounts of ethanol into the U.S. fuel supply. Refiners that refuse to blend fuel must purchase Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. Oil refiners argue the standards cost the oil industry millions of dollars a year and frequently push for a repeal or reform of the RFS.
EPA initially wanted to reduce the quota for biodiesel production and allow exported biofuels to count towards meeting RFS requirements. The ethanol industry opposed both these measures, because they worried the moves would deconstruct the spirt of the program.
Midwestern lawmakers were worried the Trump administration would drastically reform, so they pitched a united front against any such action.
Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, for instance single-handedly held up the nomination process for two EPA nominees in October to extract written promises from President Donald Trump to protect the biofuel industry.
Ernst sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Republicans control the committee, but only by an 11 to 10 majority. One defection and it becomes very difficult to approve Trump’s nominees.
Ernst’s ploy worked. Pruitt later sent a letter to seven corn belt Senators to assure them the agency would not tamper with the RFS.
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