By Tim Rudnicki, Esq
The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, just as did many individuals and organizations, submitted comments to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week. In preparing to submit comments, we reviewed the EPA proposed rule found in the Federal Register (FR), Volume 80, No. 111, starting at page 33100. While this might not come as a surprise to anyone reading this column, the EPA, in its proposed rule, did use the phrase “blendwall” and "E10 blendwall" on more than one occasion. What is surprising, however, is the EPA's continued backward looking assessment of total consumption capacity for renewable biofuel.
For instance, the EPA entirely dismisses the role E15 is playing, and will grow to play, in exceeding the Congressional volume targets set forth in the Renewable Fuel Standard (FR at 33126). The EPA, instead, fixates on the old regular E10 and stops its calculations there. From a Minnesota perspective the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports indicate we are at the 12.2% level of ethanol use. Rather than looking in its rear view mirror where it will only see E10, the EPA ought to look outside and just up ahead.
Did the EPA see, to the side and ahead, the recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)? Findings from NREL indicate that virtually all the existing components currently used to store and dispense fuel is compatible with and capable of handling E15, the new regular unleaded fuel. Or did the EPA notice that nearly nine out of 10 vehicles on the highway can use E15? With data provided by the EPA and doing some math, it seems the national E15 annual consumption capacity is close to at least 18.5 billion gallons for each of the next few years.
Interestingly, the EPA segments biofuel consumption capacity by FFVs and everything else. At page 33128, the EPA states: "With regard to E85, according to EIA there will be about 16 million FFVs in the in-use fleet in 2016 with a total consumption capacity of about 14 billion gallons of E 85." The EPA then goes on to discuss market access issues for FFVs, considers potential consumption if at least 5% of FFVs had access to E85 and notes that the "vast majority of vehicles are within reasonable range of more than one retail station on typical trips." Aggregating FFVs and, for example, all the 2001 and newer light duty vehicles which can use E15, the annual total consumption capacity is 32.5 billion gallons.
Does aggregation provide the EPA with another perspective by which to come to the conclusion that it ought to enforce the RFS as written by Congress? Perhaps the totality of the many thoughtful comments that were submitted to the EPA will provide the Agency with the type of public comments which the Agency can use to conclude it ought to comply with and enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard.