A study from a pair of University of Illinois researchers says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks “transparency and clarity” when it comes to approving new feedstocks for biofuels as new pathway determinations. In farmdocdaily.com, James McCubbins and Bryan Endres say that if it’s not biodiesel or corn ethanol, it seems to take a lot longer to get the agency’s approval… twice as long in some cases… and that affects the biofuel producer’s ability to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs):
Under the RFS2 pathways process, EPA assess biofuels based upon an energy balance equation that considers a biofuel’s feedstock, process, and type of fuel produced. EPA requires that if a particular fuel type, process, or feedstock varies significantly from any of the already modeled pathways found in the regulations, then companies seeking to develop biofuel through non-modeled pathways must petition EPA to determine the energy balance of that biofuel production process. Before conducting an assessment of the new pathway, EPA also will consider how close the new pathway is to actual production. Based upon priority, EPA will then determine the energy balance of the new fuel, feedstock or process, and assign it an applicable D-code that categorizes the biofuel as renewable, advanced, cellulosic or biodiesel. The D-code assignment allows producers of the biofuel, using approved pathways, to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to a batch of biofuel, for the purpose of tracking its production, use, and trading.
The length of time between filing of the petition and final determination suggests that there may be a lack of transparency and clarity of the data EPA needs to conduct its assessment, especially for petitions involving substances or processes other than biodiesel or corn ethanol.
The study goes on to say that going forward, the EPA must develop clear guidance on the pathway approval process. If more hurdles are removed, the researchers contend that more advanced biofuels could meet RFS2 mandates.