It was clear Thursday at a public hearing on ethanol policy, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tries to thread a very tricky needle when it establishes renewable fuel plans.
The EPA in May proposed modest increases in the amount of renewable fuels it will require oil refiners to blend into the U.S. gasoline and diesel supply next year – a total of 18.8 billion gallons, up from 18.11 billion gallons this year.
The small increase could move the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply beyond the current standard of 10 percent, causing oil companies to worry that they won’t be able to sell it. Still, the levels remain far below goals set by Congress in its original 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard legislation, meaning ethanol advocates aren’t fully satisfied.
More than a hundred interested parties – from farmers, to oil executives, to lobbyists, to environmental groups – signed-up to speak at the EPA’s national public hearing in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday.
Many, like Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts urged the EPA to further lift renewable fuel goals.
“(The Renewable Fuel Standard) is something that helps us become less reliant on foreign fuel, it’s good for the environment, and it’s also something that helps us create jobs in rural America,” Ricketts said.
The oil industry has routinely asked the EPA to lower its ethanol goals, as Americans are driving less, and therefore need less gasoline. Some environmental groups dispute the benefits of ethanol. Many automotive and oil groups say that gasoline containing higher proportions of ethanol can damage engines.
The EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule until July 11 and is expected to finalize renewable fuel targets by November.