USDA’s “Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022” released on Wednesday gives all the right directions as far as the ethanol industry is concerned, now they want to see it actually hit the road and make it to the destination.
Releasing the report, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The current ethanol industry provides a solid foundation to build upon and reach the 36 billion gallon goal. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence and this report provides a roadmap to achieve that goal.”
The report acknowledges the significant role of corn ethanol in meeting future goals, outlines a regional analysis of feedstocks that can be utilized for biofuels production, and stresses the need for more blender pumps and flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). All of the nation’s ethanol industry organizations issued responses that they were pleased with USDA’s report.
Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen calls the goals of the RFS ambitious, but achievable. “Secretary Vilsack and USDA have rightfully identified the crucial areas in which the department can help accelerate the growth of the industry and ensure the RFS delivers on the goals provided when Congress passed the legislation,” said Dinneen.
The USDA report says the agency “can immediately offer assistance on infrastructure” such as blender pumps to add to what the ethanol industry is already doing. RFA has joined with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) on the Blend Your Own campaign aimed at installing 5,000 blender pumps in the next three years, and Growth Energy recently began a grant program for retailers to install the pumps.
However, the organizations all note that increasing the blend rate for ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent is still a critical step that is needed. “Until the regulations are modernized to allow more than 10 percent biofuels in a gallon of gasoline, petroleum still has a 90 percent mandate at the pump,” said ACE executive vice president Brian Jennings. USDA’s report acknowledges the “blend wall” as one of the challenges in expanding the use of biofuels, but beyond that says only that “EPA is in the process of evaluating whether a decision to blend up to 15 percent ethanol into gasoline is justifiable based on the latest science, its effect on engines, and its effect on air quality.”
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis commended Secretary Vilsack for “looking down the road to help America achieve its energy independence” with a long term plan, but noted that interim measures are needed, such as approval of Growth Energy’s petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable blend of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.