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EPA Weighs Lifting Ethanol Requirements for Oil Refiners

Business News/Analysis, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Agency, Federal Litigation, Federal Regulation, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Opinions, Policy, Texas, Utah, Wyoming
April 19, 2020

by Rebecca Beitsch (The Hill) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is weighing whether to let oil refineries skip on adding ethanol to their fuels, a move being requested by governors in oil-rich states who say the industry can’t afford the expense of blending in biofuels as oil prices plummet. 

Oil prices hit a new low Friday amid a number of administration efforts to ease financial pressure on the industry. Ethanol producers, however, say they have likewise been affected as the economy tanks due to the coronavirus.

In a letter to the EPA sent earlier this week, five governors from oil-producing states said their refineries should be off the hook from meeting legal requirements to add ethanol to their products, arguing the oil industry is in too dire of financial straits to do so. READ MORE

Coronavirus Sparks New Clash Between Big Corn & Big Oil Lobbies. The Corn & Ethanol Report 04/17/2020 (Inside Futures)

Oil-state governors seek renewable fuel waiver for refiners — Refiners say the economy’s swoon makes the requirements too costly. Biofuel backers say their industry is suffering as well (Roll Call)

COVID-19 Cited in Waiver Request — Governors in Five States Asked EPA for Renewable Fuel Standard Waiver (DTN Progressive Farmer)

Governors Request Help For Small Refineries From EPA (Wyoming Public Radio)

US oil companies in call to halt biofuel blending as prices fall (Biofuels International)

RFA to EPA: Oily Waiver Request Deserves Speedy Rejection (Renewable Fuels Association)

RFA on AgriTalk: Oil States Wrong to Seek RFS Waiver (AgriTalk)

OIL STATE GOVERNORS ASK EPA TO WAIVE 2020 RFS (Brownfield Ag News)

10 years after BP spill: Oil drilled deeper; rules relaxed (PBS NewsHour)

U.S. oil and gas rig count continues steep declines (Houston Chronicle)

Drop in Demand for Ethanol Hurts Corn Farmers (Alton Daily News)

Growth Energy Joins U.S. Governors Calling on USDA to Protect Biofuel Jobs, Farm Communities (Growth Energy)

Growth Energy Condemns Oil-Backed Effort to Steal Biofuel, Farm Markets (Growth Energy)

CONSIDER THE RISKS: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Oil industry seeks reduced biofuels obligations; Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst resist (Omaha World-Herald)

U.S. energy industry steps up lobbying for Fed’s emergency aid: letters (Reuters)

Parsing Trump’s bailout tweet (Politico’s Morning Energy)

API: LET’S GET A REDO OF THOSE BIOFUEL VOLUMES: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Ethanol Blog: Petroleum Interests Ask EPA to Conduct New 2020 RFS Rulemaking (DTN Progressive Farmer)

Trump pledges financial aid to oil industry (Politico)

Matt Schweigert: Time for officials to honor ethanol deals (Madison.com)

 

Excerpt from Wyoming Public Radio:  Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA, a non-profit educational organization, said biofuels shouldn’t be targeted given COVID-19 and international conflict led to economic pain in the oil and gas industry.

“The sad part is that the same problems are impacting the whole biofuels industry, and perhaps even more than they’re hurting the oil industry because nearly half of the ethanol production, for example, has been halted,” she said.

Domestic ethanol production has dropped by 45 percent since March 6. In the same timespan, domestic crude oil production has dropped by only 5 percent.

The letter argued the Clean Air Act doesn’t say a waiver depends on RFS compliance being the only economic factor in play.

Ivancic said the biofuel industry will certainly fight back if the EPA does grant the waiver. READ MORE

 

Excerpt from DTN Progressive Farmer: Geoff Cooper, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the agency has rejected similar requests and should do so now.

“Clearly, these governors are experiencing an acute shortage of facts and reality too. It’s clear they know absolutely nothing about how the Renewable Fuel Standard actually works. They outrageously claim that a waiver is needed because of ‘depressed demand for transportation fuel.’ But because EPA translates the RFS into a percentage each year, the renewable fuel blending requirements already adjust in tandem with changes in gasoline and diesel consumption.”

Cooper said if COVID-19 led to a 15% drop in gasoline and diesel demand, for example, the renewable fuel blending requirements drop by the same amount.

“The EPA has no authority to grant relief when the RFS itself is not the cause of the ‘severe economic harm,’ a fact that has been reconfirmed by EPA multiple times in the past when it denied similar nonsensical waiver requests,” he said.

“The governors themselves acknowledge the problems facing refiners today are driven by COVID-19 and cratering oil prices, not the RFS.”   READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Roll Call: A spokesman for Grassley said the renewable fuel policy is “the law of the land” and that “any attempt by EPA to rewrite the RFS statute would be illegal.”

Renewable fuel trade groups said the governors’ demands were outrageous and would hurt rural jobs.

“This is an offensive attempt by refiners to steal markets from struggling biofuel producers and farmers,” said Emily Skor, CEO of the biofuels trade group Growth Energy. “Any move to unravel the RFS now would dim any hopes of economic recovery in rural America, where so many in the U.S. biofuel industry have been impacted by furloughs and plant closures, and millions of farmers are struggling to stay afloat.”  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Growth Energy: “Biofuel plants are the beating heart of the rural economy, and strong support from USDA is vital to keeping U.S. agriculture intact through the worst of this crisis,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “Ethanol production provides jobs for our communities, a market for our farmers, sanitizer for our hospitals, animal feed for livestock operations, clean fuel for our vehicles, and vital carbon dioxide (CO2) for meatpackers, and municipal water treatment. We’re grateful to rural champions like Governors Reynolds, Walz, Ricketts, and Noem who are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s biofuel industry to keep our vital supply chain moving.

“As more plants are forced to close, the damage will only continue to spread. We urge lawmakers and the USDA to take immediate, additional steps that are still needed to keep our plants open and protect the economic engine that will fuel America’s recovery.”

Signed by U.S. Governors Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, the letter also offered a powerful rebuke against recent oil-backed efforts to “waive blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard for petroleum refineries.” They note, “Using this global pandemic as an excuse to undercut the RFS is not just illegal; it would also sever the economic lifeline that renewable fuels provide for farmers, workers and rural communities across the Midwest.”  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Growth Energy:  “We’ve seen the courts reject this kind of abuse before. Even oil companies admit that biofuel credits don’t impose a real cost on refiners. We see this as a non-starter and call on this administration to focus on restoring – not destroying – rural jobs.”  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy: CONSIDER THE RISKS:Nine Democratic senators urged Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to consider the long-term risks of purchasing corporate debt from oil and gas companies through new emergency programs created as part of the coronavirus economic stimulus. Senators — including Sherrod Brown (Ohio), the ranking Democrat on the Banking Committee, Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — called for more transparency of the twin programs that are offering up to $750 billion in market liquidity. They said they’re wary the Trump administration could look to provide aid to “specific industries with financial weaknesses that are only partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

They argued the Fed initiatives could create future financial strain if used to buy up bonds from oil and gas companies with overvalued assets that companies might not be able to develop under more stringent climate policies. “Fossil fuel companies face an inevitable repricing of their assets as consumer preferences continue to shift and governments around the world act on climate change, with or without the United States,” the senators wrote in a letter. READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Reuters:  The U.S. energy industry has asked the Federal Reserve to change the terms of a $600 billion lending facility so that oil and gas companies can use the funds to repay their ballooning debts, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Even before the oil price slump in early March, U.S. shale producers were under huge pressure from investors to reduce costs and bolster returns. With many carrying significant debt loads and earnings declining, shale producers have been preparing for possible Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings.

They also asked for the program’s maximum loan size of $25 million be raised so natural gas companies “can meet their obligations.”

Natural gas companies, especially those in the Appalachian region, have struggled for months as commodity prices were depressed by oversupply. READ MORE

 

Exerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy:  PARSING TRUMP’S BAILOUT TWEET: Trump promised on Tuesday to bail out U.S. oil companies, a day after crude oil futures prices dove into negative territory for the first time ever. In a tweet, Trump said he instructed his Energy and Treasury secretaries to come up with a plan to “make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!”

The president’s tweet represents a shift in rhetoric from last week when he said the industry would withstand the pain in the oil market. But, as POLITICO’s Ben Lefebvre reports, some energy officials worry that focusing aid on an industry more typically known for its deep pockets and political power could set off a political backlash during an election year.

“The optics are not politically smart,” said one lobbyist who was not authorized to talk to the media. “A handout to the oil industry will likely not play well among white, college-educated suburban moms stuck inside their homes home-schooling their kids.”

Speaking before reporters Tuesday evening, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that energy companies are not the intended recipients of a pot of $17 billion authorized by Congress under the CARES Act for businesses critical to maintaining national security. “Obviously, the energy business is very important to us. This has national security issues, but different,” Mnuchin said. “We look forward to looking at what existing capabilities we have and that will be something we may need to go back to Congress and get additional funding for.”  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy:  API: LET’S GET A REDO OF THOSE BIOFUEL VOLUMES:The American Petroleum Institute is asking EPA to revise its 2020 blending requirements, the oil producers group told ME. API believes that now that the 10th Circuit has effectively killed the small refiner exemption, the agency should remove the reallocation requirements built into the 2020 rule, a spokesman said. EPA added the requirement last year to blend an extra 770 million gallons of biofuel in light of volumes lost to the mandate from exemptions. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol producers group, disagrees, calling API’s request “rank hypocrisy.”   READ MORE

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gas prices natural gas vehicles Navy Nebraska neem negative carbon emissions neodymium Nepal net energy balance Netherlands Nevada New Brunswick Newfoundland new fuel approval New Guinea New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New South Wales New York New Zealand next generation biofuels next generation vehicles NHRA drag racing Nicaragua nickel Niger Nigeria nipa sap nitrate leaching nitrates nitrogen Nitrogen fertiliser nitrogen starvation nitrous oxide (N2O) Niue NO2 noodles nopal North Africa North America North Carolina North Dakota northern catalpa Northern Ireland Northern Territory North Korea Northwest Territories Norway Nova Scotia NOx (nitrogen oxides) noxious weeds NTSB nuclear Nunavut nutraceuticals nutrient credit trading nutrient management nutrients nutrition nut shells oak oat hulls oats oat straw Obligated Parties/Point of Obligation (PoO) ocean-based energy Oceania octane octane price/value octanol Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office of Management and Budget (OMB) offtake agreements Ohio oil oil embargo oil exploration oil monopoly oil price parity oil prices oil production oil refineries oil replacement Oils oil sands oil seed oil seed crops oil speculators oil spill oil subsidies oil taxes Oklahoma olefins olive cake olive oil olive pits olives olive water Oman Omega-3s on-farm algae production on-farm biodiesel on-farm ethanol production on-farm natural gas production on-farm processing one pound waiver onion waste online courses Ontario OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) open fuel standard open pond opportunity zones optimized flex fuel vehicles orange peel orchard grass orchard prunings Oregon organic solar cells OSHA Overseas Private Investment Corporation overview overview/survey course oxygen oxygenate ozone Pakistan Palau palm palm biomass palm fatty acid distillate palm fiber palm fronds palm kernel palm kernel oil palm kernel shell palm oil palm oil mill effluent (POME) palm oil prices palm waste 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pomegranates pongamia pongamia pinnata poplar poppy population control Portable refinery Portugal poster sessions potamogeton potassium potato poultry litter power-to-x/gas/liquid prairie grasses pre-processing precision farming/agriculture precursors/biointermediates premium gasoline Pretreatment pretreatment equipment price price of water prickly pear Prince Edward Island process flow diagram producer tax credit Production tax credit productivity project insurance propagating Propane/Biopropane/Renewable Propane propanol property insurance propylene protectionism protein protests public comments public health policy Puerto Rico pulp Pulp/Paper Mill pump retrofit kit pumps pungam Punnai tree pyrolysis Q-RIN QAP Qatar quality assurance Quality Assurance Plans (QAPs) quality improvement quantum dots Quebec Queensland quote of the week r R33 rabbits race radiata pine Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing railroad rainforest rain tree RAND rare earth metal RD20 RD30 RD99 RD100 reclaimed mine lands recycled oil recycled plastics recycling red algae redcedar Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation refineries reforestation Reformate regenerative braking regenerative farming regulation regulations Regulations-Federal Regulations-State Regulatory Enhancement Growth Support (REGS) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) remediation remediation rice straw Renewable Chemical renewable chemical producer tax incentive renewable chemical production tax credit renewable d Renewable Diesel/Green Diesel/Paraffinic Diesel Renewable Diesel/Green Diesel price Renewable Diesel Production renewable diesel pumps renewable diesel tax credit renewable diesel terminal Renewable Energy Renewable Energy Directive (RED and RED II) Renewable Energy Standard Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) renewable fuel renewable fuel oil (RFO) Renewable Fuels Directive (EU) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) revisions/repeal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS and RFS2) renewable gasoline blendstock renewable marine diesel Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) price Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) pumps Renewable Portfolio Standards Renewable Power Standard Renewable Synthesized Iso-Paraffinic Fuels (SIP) Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) renewable volume obligation (RVO) RenovaBio replacement molecules Repowering Assistance Program repurpose research and development research facility resiliency resource depletion retail retrofit return on investment R Factor RFI (Request for Information) RFS "reset" RHD100 Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) Rhode Island Ricardo rice rice bran oil rice hulls rice husks rice price rice straw RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) RIMPAC RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) RINs markets RINs price risk management RJ-4 RJ-6 RME (rape methyl ester) RME180 RNA (Ribonucleic acid) roadmap rocket fuel Romania RON (Research Octane Number) rotation crops royalties RTP (rapid thermal processing) rubber rumen ruminants rural development Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative Russia Russian olive rutabaga Rwanda ry rye Rye grass s saccharification Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) safety safflower sago pond weed SAIC SAK Salicornia salt-tolerant saltbush saltcedar sal tree salt water Sanctions Santa Monica sardine oil Saskatchewan Saudi Arabia sawdust scale up Scandinavia scholarships/fellowships Science Advisory Board (SAB) Science Policy Scotland scum sea level rise seashore mallow seawater Seaweed/Macroalgae seaweed cultivation Section 526 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seed-to-wheel seed husks Senegal Serbia sesame sewage Seychelles shale shale gas shale oil shark oil sheep shipping shipping containers shipworm Sierra Leone silica Silphie/cup plant/Indian cup silver silver maple simarouba Singapore sisal SK slash Slovakia Slovakia/Slovak Republic Slovenia 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(substantially similar) succinic acid sucrose Sudan sugar sugar-to-biodiesel sugar-to-farnesane sugar-to-jetfuel Sugar Beets/Energy Beets sugarcane sugarcane prices sugarcane straw Sugar kelp sugar palm sugar platform sugar prices sugars sugars-to-fats sugar standards sulfur Sumatra sunflower supercritical fluid supercritical hydrolysis supply agreements supply chain Supreme Court surahart Suriname sustai Sustainability Swaziland Sweden sweetgum sweet potatoes Sweet sorghum swine waste Switchgrass Switzerland sycamore syngas syngas fermentation synthetic biology synthetic diesel synthetic gasoline synthetic liquified gas (SLG) synthetic methane Syria Tailoring Rule Taiwan Tajikistan tall fescue tall oil tallow tallow tree Tamarix tank-to-wheel tank cars tankers tanker trucks Tanzania tariffs taro tar sands Tasmania tax benefit tax credit taxes tax incentives tax parity tax policy tea teach-the-teacher teacher teacher resources teacher training technical course Technical Readiness Levels techno-economic analysis technology transfer tech transfer telephone utility poles Tennessee termites terpenes terrestrial carbon testing Texas textbook Thailand theft therapeutics thermal deoxygenation thermocatalytic conversion thermochemical conversion thermochemical liquefaction Tier 3 Tier 4 tilapia tillage Timor-Leste tires tobacco tobacco tree Togo Tokyo toluene Tonga tool Toronto torrefaction Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) trade trade dispute/discrimination trade group trade organization Trade Policy trade secrets training trains transesterification transgenics transition Transportation Fuels Policy Transportation Fuels Policy--Municipal Transportation Fuels Policy--State Transportation Policy Treasury Department trees Trinidad and Tobago triticale trucks tubers tung tunicate Tunisia Turkey UCOME (Used Cooking Oil Methyl Ester) Uganda UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine UL (Underwriters Laboratory) ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel) Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (ULSFO) underground 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