NEVADA, Iowa (AP) — A refinery designed to make ethanol from cornstalks, leaves and cobs — not the grain itself — opened Friday in central Iowa, the culmination of a $225 million construction project and millions more invested in its engineering and design.
The plant, owned by chemical and biotechnology company DuPont, will use the same bacteria that tequila distillers use to make ethanol instead of yeast, which is most prevalent in the ethanol industry. It's one of the new innovations DuPont said it has incorporated into the plant, touted as the world's largest cellulosic ethanol plant; DuPont expects it to eventually make 30 million gallons of the fuel additive a year.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed blending levels for the Renewable Fuel Standard would undercut necessary investment in advanced biofuels and undermine its climate change goals, a coalition of industry leaders told President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
In a letter, 23 executives from the advanced and cellulosic biofuels sector, including Abengoa, POET-DSM and Novozymes, warned Obama that the proposals for 2014, 2015 and 2016 run contrary to his climate legacy and would reward an oil industry that has chosen not to comply.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard proposals for 2014, 2015 and 2016 hit the Federal Register this week, and a supporting document is helping to drive the ethanol industry’s calls for stronger blending requirements.
EPA’s proposals drew fire from all sides when they were unveiled two weeks ago. The ethanol industry said the blending targets were a handout to oil companies and refiners, because it acknowledged a 10-percent biofuel blend wall. Foes of the standard, however, charged that EPA set an unrealistic projection for biofuel growth in its 2016 proposal.
As the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to issue three years’ worth of proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volume levels, both sides of the debate are lobbying the Obama administration on what those proposals should look like. Biofuels groups called for an aggressive standard while oil and refining groups sought a reprieve from the current RFS blending trajectory.
In recent days, the industries have sent correspondence to the White House and EPA seeking to influence the volume requirements for 2014, 2015 and 2016, set to be proposed on June 1.
An industry group representing advanced and cellulosic fuel producers on Wednesday officially shifted its position on the Renewable Fuel Standard, calling for legislative reform to the program that mandates the blending of biofuels in transportation fuels.
The Advanced Biofuels Association's call for action won approval from opponents of the current RFS, who see it as giving a big boost to reform efforts. But supporters of the law said the proposals would only add more uncertainty to the biofuels industry.
The decision last week by the Obama administration to delay a final biofuels rule for 2014 is leading to conflict within the industry over the future of the program.
Mike McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, on Tuesday renewed his call for Congress to write new legislation to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard, a stance that put him at odds with other biofuels groups.
He argued that the approach adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep biofuels at about 10 percent of the motor vehicle fuel market, based on the predominant blend of ethanol into gasoline sold to consumers, threatens to kill investment into ethanol made from non-corn cellulosic feedstocks.
"It's time for Congress to step in and do something," McAdams said in an interview.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it will not finalize its 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard proposal this year and will set final targets next year, potentially with 2015 requirements.
The agency is more than a year late in finalizing the annual mandate for biofuels use in transportation fuels. Late last year it proposed to cut required use compared to 2013, which prompted intense lobbying from the biofuels industry in an effort to raise the totals in a final rule.
"Due to this delay, and given ongoing consideration of the issues presented by the commenters, EPA is not in a position to finalize the 2014 RFS standards rule before the end of the year," the agency said in a Federal Register notice.
Sources tell Platts that the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014 biodiesel production will range from 1.28 billion to 1.5 billion gallons, far lower than industry capacity that reached 1.8 billion gallons last year.
As industry and politicians await this year's final ethanol mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency, the oil industry hopes to get a lower total out of the Obama administration with a long shot pitch that consumers want gasoline free from biofuels.
The American Petroleum Institute has asked EPA to consider an apparent increase in sales of unleaded gasoline with no ethanol. It has said those sales of so-called E0 should prompt a lower Renewable Fuel Standard requirement, below the 13.1 billion gallons of conventional ethanol it proposed last fall.
But the argument is running up against lobbying by the ethanol industry, which wants the totals raised, and EPA itself, and its success would be a surprise.
The stocks of U.S. petroleum products increased last week, the Energy Information Administration reported, although the million barrel rise in crude stocks was less than analysts’ expected, while the jump in gasoline stocks exceeded predictions, according to Reuters.
Earthjustice filed court papers Tuesday on behalf of several environmental and health groups seeking to intervene to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s lower ozone limits from a lawsuit brought by coal company Murray Energy, The Hill reports.
State Department climate envoy Todd Stern told a news conference that he’s thinking about the upside, not the downside, heading into a critical global conference on climate change policy that starts Monday, National Journal reports.
The plan for coal producer Walter Energy to emerge from bankruptcy is being fought by unions and the firm’s retired workers in Alabama, but a court Tuesday approved the company’s move to auction off assets, Reuters reports.
Acting to lower its credit rating for Pemex, Moody’s Investors Service pointed to the firm’s increasing debt and declining earnings, although Mexico’s national oil company responded by saying the move brings the agency in line with other ratings firms, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The White House and the billionaire conservative Koch brothers have been allies recently in moves to liberalize the nation’s criminal justice laws, but they are disagreeing over one measure that would require proof of suspects knowingly engaging in unlawful conduct, The New York Times reports, noting that such a move is alarming environmentalists.
According to a report released this week by the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, weather-related disasters have caused more than 600,000 deaths and trillions of dollars in damages over the past 20 years, The New York Times reports.
A market-based approach for cutting vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions—which could include mileage-based driver fees or emissions trading—is the goal as Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia announced an agreement to work together on the issue, Reuters reports.