New records were set in 2015 for U.S. ethanol production and blending according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Last year ethanol production hit a record high of 14.81 billion gallons while refiners and blenders integrated a record 13.69 billion gallons into the U.S. gasoline supply. The industry’s monthly average output in December 2015 also crested the 1 million-barrel-per-day mark for the first time in history.
Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that output levels of corn ethanol were primarily responsible for a record generation of 14.83 billion Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used by obligated parties to track compliance under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said that while the numbers are impressive, the American ethanol industry is prepared to do more. Unfortunately, added Dinneen, mismanagement of the RFS program and the oil industry’s intransigence to adopt higher-level ethanol blends like E15 kept the ethanol industry from realizing its full potential. EPA set the 2015 blending obligation for renewable fuel at just 14.05 billion gallons, rather than the 15 billion gallon level established by Congress – an act that is being challenged in federal court.
“The U.S. ethanol industry had an incredible year in 2015, but the failure of the White House and EPA to enforce the RFS as designed by Congress means our nation missed a huge opportunity to provide consumers with even larger volumes of domestically produced, low-carbon, high-octane biofuels,” said Dinneen. “There is no doubt that the ethanol industry could have produced even more renewable fuel if the Administration had stood firm on implementation of the statutory RFS volumes, rather than caving to the oil industry’s ‘blend wall’ narrative.”
RFA noted that the record December output rate of 1.002 million barrels per day would result in 15.36 billion gallons if maintained for an entire year, well above the 15 billion gallon blending requirement originally mandated by Congress for 2015 and beyond. “By eclipsing the 1 million-barrel-per-day mark in December, ethanol producers have proven once again that they are more than capable of delivering the volumes necessary to meet the RFS blending requirements established by Congress,” said Dinneen. “The industry just needs to be set free to achieve the laudable goals set forth by Congress, which are as important today as they were nearly a decade ago when the RFS was expanded.” Dinneen also added that EIA and EPA data show the volume requirements established by Congress could easily have been met by oil companies.
Dinneen concluded, “When the 14.83 billion new renewable fuel RIN credits generated in 2015 are combined with the existing surplus of 1.8 billion RINs that resulted from past over-compliance with the RFS, it becomes quite obvious that we had more than enough supply to meet the 2015 statutory renewable fuel volume of 15 billion gallons.”