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EPA Proposes Tweaks to Ethanol Policy

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media
E Energy in Adams, Neb., takes in corn from local farms to make 65 million gallons of ethanol each year.

The U.S. EPA is proposing tweaks to ethanol policy. The agency proposed a cut to the amount of corn ethanol oil companies are required to blend in to our gasoline, as well as ambitious targets for low-carbon cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from grasses and other inedible parts of plants.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as the ethanol rules are called, mandates oil companies use certain levels of biofuels. It is meant to encourage growth in the industry and to cut greenhouse emissions from gasoline. The EPA, however, hasn’t finalized annual production targets since 2013, leaving the ethanol industry in the lurch.

The announcement Friday amounts to the EPA’s suggested production levels for corn ethanol, cellulosic biofuel, bio-diesel, and what it calls “advanced biofuel” in 2014, 2015, 2016.

“We believe these proposed volume requirements will provide a strong incentive for continued investment and growth in biofuels,” Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air, said in a release.

The proposed standard for 2016, the EPA says, amounts to 1.5 billion more gallons of total renewable fuels than the volume actually blended into gasoline in 2014. Still, the proposed level is far short of the levels required by the original mandate passed by Congress.

The proposal cuts the amount of corn ethanol required in the RFS, a controversial proposal in Corn Country. For that reason, the National Corn Growers Association decried the proposal.

After months of public comment, the EPA says it plans to finalize the volume standards by Nov. 30.