Biden’s Biofuels Targets

Iowa politicians objected to an EPA proposal to lower 2020 biofuel blending requirements retroactively. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Big Oil and enviros aren’t pleased with President Biden’s biofuel targets. Farmers aren’t completely excited by the retroactive reductions for 2020, but they gain the most. I wrote about Big Corn’s silent revolution at the expense of Big Oil, in Responsive Regulation and Resiliency: The Renewable Fuel Standard and Advanced Biofuels back in 2018. I was actually working on the article the day that Trump got elected. And I regretted working on a law review article no one would read when we ended up with a President like that.

The RFS has not only guaranteed a marketplace for biofuels in the United States, but also catalyzed the rapid scale-up of biofuel use globally. Although the volatility of the market economy and disruption of emerging technologies complicate the implementation and enforcement of the national biofuel mandate, biofuels remain the most viable way to bring about a clean energy future. Evidence suggests that the U.S. government—which has increased its biofuel mandate to 19.28 billion gallons in 2017, more than a six percent increase from 2016 levels—agrees. This fact is evidence of Big Corn’s silent revolution, which it has achieved at the expense of Big Oil, largely through responsive regulation and the rise of advanced biofuels.

Virginia Environmental Law Journal

A year ago I was in the thick of voter mobilization campaigns for the Georgia Senate runoff. I realized all this policy work that I was doing wouldn’t matter squat if the right people weren’t in office. It was literally five months straight of voter registration and GOTV. Now the clock is ticking again toward 2022. We only have a small window to work on rapid climate change adaptation and renewables development and deployment. In that shrinking time horizon, a lot has to get done, and people have to be kept happy. That’s why farmers in the Midwest are top of the mind for the biofuels mandate. Big Corn as a clean energy resource is poor gamble. I argue that advanced biofuels are better suited from climate change.

Politico is reporting on biofuels update:

RENEWING THE FUEL STANDARD: EPA unveiled its long overdue biofuel blending proposals under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it was a mixed bag for ethanol backers and refiners alike.

EPA called for retroactively lowering the blending targets for 2020 to account for the pandemic-weakened demand, but raising biofuel levels for 2022. EPA also proposed denying 65 requests for blending requirement waivers from small refiners.

The plans amount to a win-some, lose-some for both sides of the bitter battle between two politically powerful industries: farmers producing alternative fuels and blue-collar, unionized refinery workers. Like every president, Biden has committed to supporting the biofuels industry that consumes more than a third of nation’s corn crop. But he’s also been under pressure to alleviate high fuel prices going into winter amid a global energy pinch.

Farm state Democrats were happy the administration finally released its blending requirements after months of delay, but still offeredsomereserved criticism for lowering 2020 targets. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) issued a joint statement saying the new plan would “delay progress to achieving our climate goals” and that there “is clearly much room for improvement.”

But Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)offered a sharp rebuke for the administration’s cutting the 2020 mandate, saying it was “absolutely a broken promise” by Biden.

The administration acknowledged the challenges for farmers and announced Tuesday the Agriculture Department will offer $700 million to financially assist producers and $100 million for renewable fuels infrastructure. But Ernst said flatly that the USDA funds “will not make up for it.”

The House Biofuels Caucus also knocked the 2020 reduction even as it offered tempered praise for the new proposals Tuesday, saying in a statement that “the 2022 number sets the biofuels industry on the right path moving forward. And the end of the abuse of Small Refinery Exemptions – which provide relief to oil companies at the expense of family farmers – is welcome news.” Pro’s Kelsey Tamborrino breaks down the proposals here.

Sen Chuck Grassley issued a statement on it:

Sen. Chuck Grassley … issued the following statement regarding the Biden Administration’s unprecedented plan to cut 2020’s mandatory biofuels blending requirements while ostensibly returning to statutory blend levels by 2022, barring other retroactive changes. 

“At a time when gas prices are through the roof and the administration is myopically focused on climate policy, it makes absolutely zero sense for President Biden to turn his back on cleaner, cheaper biofuels. The administration’s unprecedented plan to retroactively cut blending levels for previous years is a boon for Big Oil. What’s to stop the administration from slashing 2022 obligations down the line? No matter how rosy future outlooks might be, this precedent makes clear the administration is not committed to renewable fuels. It’s a disgrace and an outrage to Iowa producers and anyone who cares about our environment. “

This administration has spent much of its first year crowing about its climate priorities while simultaneously begging OPEC to reduce skyrocketing oil costs. Domestically-produced biofuels help to solve both of these problems, but the Biden Administration opted not to take yes for an answer. I don’t want to hear another word about President Biden’s so-called climate priorities until he puts his money where his mouth is and delivers cleaner, cheaper biofuels for Americans, just as he promised Iowans on the campaign trail,” Grassley said.

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Nadia Ahmad

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