Renewable fuel volumes lower in 2018

EPA used waivers to set volumes lower than allowed by law

Posted December 13, 2017

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set renewable fuel percentage standards every year. On December 12, 2017, the Agency published the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for 2018 for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. EPA said it relied on statutory waivers that are allowed when projected volumes are less than the volumes set by the statute. Therefore, the volumes set for 2018 are below the statutory volume targets.

EPA also set the applicable volume of biomass-based diesel for 2019.

The final rule becomes effective on February 12, 2018.

The final volume requirements, listed below, are ethanol-equivalent on an energy content basis, except biomass-based diesel, which is biodiesel-equivalent.

  2018 2019
Cellulosic biofuel (million gallons) 288 n/a
Biomass-based diesel (billion gallons) 2.1* 2.1
Advanced biofuel (billion gallons) 4.29 n/a
Renewable fuel (billion gallons) 19.29 n/a

*The 2018 biomass-based diesel volume was established in 2017.

Four separate percentage standards are required under the RFS program, corresponding to the four separate renewable fuel categories. The percentage standards represent the ratio of the national applicable volume of renewable fuel volume to the national projected non-renewable gasoline and diesel volume less any gasoline and diesel attributable to small refineries granted an exemption prior to the date that the standards are set.

The 2018 percentage values are as follows:

Cellulosic biofuel 0.159%
Biomass-based diesel 1.74%
Advanced biofuel 2.37%
Renewable fuel 10.67%

The Renewable Fuel Standards program

The RFS program is intended to help the United States achieve “greater energy independence and security [and] to increase the production of clean renewable fuels.” Under the program, almost all gasoline used for transportation purposes contains 10 percent ethanol, and on average diesel fuel contains more than four percent biodiesel and/or renewable diesel.

According to EPA, “real-world challenges,” including slower-than-expected development of the cellulosic biofuel industry, has slowed progress toward meeting the statutory goals for renewable fuels. These shortfalls placed the volume targets for 2018 for advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels “beyond reach.” However, the Agency says the RFS targets for 2018 will ensure these renewable fuels “will continue to play a critical role as a complement to our petroleum-based fuels.”

The national volume targets of renewable fuels that are intended to be achieved under the RFS program each year are specified in section 211 of the Clean Air Act.

The statutory volume targets for 2018 are as follows. All values are ethanol-equivalent on an energy content basis, except values for biomass-based diesel, which are given in actual gallons.

  2017 2018
Cellulosic biofuel 5.5 5.5
Biomass-based diesel ≥1.0 ≥1.0
Advanced biofuel 9.0 9.0
Renewable fuel 24.0 24.0

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