Renewable Fuel Standard For Ethanol in 2011 Set at 13.95 Billion Gallons

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued standards for the four categories of fuel under the agency's renewable fuel standard program, known as RFS2. Under current legislation, the total required volume of renewable fuels must increase each year before reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued standards for the four categories of fuel under the agency's renewable fuel standard program, known as RFS2. Under current legislation, the total required volume of renewable fuels must increase each year before reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates percentage-based standards for the following year. Based on the standards, each producer and importer of gasoline and diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel. 

EPA announced the final 2011 overall volume by fuel type (in gallons): 

 

  • Cellulosic biofuel –– 6.6 million
  • Biomass-based diesel –– 800 million 
  • Advanced biofuel –– 1.35 billion 
  • Renewable fuel –– 13.95 billion 

 

Based on an analysis of expected market availability, EPA says it is finalizing a lower 2011 cellulosic volume than the statutory target of 250 million gallons. Overall, EPA said it "remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead." 

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said that the final rule indicates EPA "is accurately reflecting the difficulties cellulosic biofuel technologies have encountered in obtaining the capital needed to fully commercialize." He added that "being aware of this fact, EPA should have been and must be careful to keep cellulosic biofuel targets ambitious so as to stimulate the kind of investment these technologies need to finish commercialization." 

In February, EPA cut the 2010 cellulosic ethanol mandate by 94 percent, reducing the goal to 6.5 million gallons from the 100 million required under a 2007 energy law. The reason, according to EPA, was that there remains a lack of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production in the United States. 

The 2011 cellulosic biofuel target is less than 3 percent of the initial plan (250 million gallons), but the lower target announced by EPA was widely expected. The United States presently has the capacity to refine only "a few million gallons" of that type of ethanol annually, said RFA spokesman Matt Hartwig.  

If fuel blenders cannot meet their cellulosic ethanol targets in 2011, they can either buy renewable fuel credits from the government or run a blending "deficit" to be made good in subsequent years, EPA said. Refiners cannot use ethanol produced from corn to make up for the shortfall in cellulosic ethanol. Only other fuels that count as advanced biofuels qualify. As previously noted, a total of 1.35 billion gallons of advanced biofuels must be added to the fuel supply next year. 

Despite the cellulosic biofuel requirement being set at a nationwide total of 6.6 million gallons for 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that only 3.94 million gallons will be available because of a slower than expected increase in cellulosic production infrastructure. EIA wrote on Oct. 20 that it believed just four cellulosic ethanol plants would be capable of production during 2011. 

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