Blinded By The Blend Wall

t rudnicki

By Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq

For those who take up reading the Federal Register from time-to-time, you might have noticed the 53 pages from June 10, 2015, dealing with the Renewable Fuel Standard and the proposed Renewable Volume Obligations.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in short, provides a host of excuses for not keeping on track with the volume requirements set forth in the Renewable Fuel Standard which is the law of the land.  Rather than working with stakeholders to fully implement the law, the EPA, by their own words, capitulate to the petroleum industry.

Consider this from the EPA:  “...we have seen analysis concluding that the ambitious statutory targets in the Clean Air Act exceed real world conditions.”  And the EPA, in its Regulatory Announcement, goes on to cite, for instance, its consideration of factors such as the market and infrastructure.  Unfortunately, the EPA is blinded by the blend wall, this notion that the market can only handle 10% ethanol at the most.

Last Thursday, June 25th, at least 200 people descended upon Kansas City, Kansas to help the EPA see the real “real world conditions.”  What if the EPA had considered the latest study showing that virtually all the fuel storage and dispensing equipment is compatible with E15, which has been the new regular fuel since 2012?  That’s at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol.  What if the EPA had acknowledged that some states, like Minnesota, are relying on stability in the interpretation and application of the law as it invests in making more renewable biofuels available to Minnesotans?

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association did its part to help the EPA get a better grasp of the real world.  Perhaps the EPA will seriously consider the input from, and collective wisdom of, all those who testified last week and reach a new conclusion: drop the proposal to deviate from the Renewable Volume Obligations in law because they are just right and it’s the law.

Testimony on the Renewable Fuel Standard
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Hearing - RFS Proposal
Kansas City, Kansas
June 25, 2015

Delivered by Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq
Executive Director
Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association

We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror. – Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene 1, 11.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Volume Obligations come nearly 412 years after Shakespeare wrote those words in “Measure for Measure”.  Here is the connection to the situation we face today. 

Congress, after much deliberation, crafted the Renewable Fuel Standard.  It has been the law of the land for eight years.  It was established with the unequivocal purpose of moving us, as a Nation, away from finite, carbon intensive fossil fuel petroleum and onto a changing, incremental pathway toward greater use of biofuels made from renewable ingredients.

The EPA’s consistent refusal to fully adhere to and implement the black letter Renewable Volume Obligations has given the Renewable Fuel Standard one shape, the shape of a bogus, fictitious blend wall which has become the petroleum industry’s perch rather than its terror.

While the EPA cites lack of infrastructure as an excuse to backslide on the Renewable Volume Obligations, the Agency ignores reality and sends a conflicting message to stakeholders in the fuel supply chain.  The EPA, however, can get it right this time:  adhere to the law and reckon with the infrastructure facts in the field.

According to findings from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory most existing fuel storage and dispensing infrastructure can already handle up to a 15% blend of ethanol and 85% petroleum gasoline.  Nearly nine out of 10 light duty vehicles on the highway can use the additional 5% ethanol in E15, or what has been the new regular fuel since 2012.  But here we are today.  The EPA has the opportunity to get it right and we all have the opportunity to replicate effective models to get the job done.

Using the results of independent studies and with the expectation that the EPA will uphold the Renewable Volume Obligations, Minnesota Legislators worked to craft a bill to introduce an additional 160 million gallons of ethanol into the fuel supply chain.  Governor Dayton recently signed the bill into law to assist a limited number of retailers in making appropriate low-cost adjustments to their fuel dispensing equipment so they can offer E15 to their customers.

This action, especially if replicated across the United States, will help to meet or exceed the Renewable Volume Obligations and provide significant environmental benefits.  Dr. Mueller with the University of Illinois at Chicago determined that the additional 5% ethanol in the Minnesota fuel supply alone will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 358,000 metric tons annually.  That’s equivalent to taking approximately 75,368 vehicles off the roadways for a year.

To sustain this progress, to the EPA we say:  change your custom and practice,  don’t roll back the Renewable Volume Obligations this time.  Instead, maintain and enforce the Renewable Volume Obligations in the law.  EPA’s adherence to the law will give all of us the certainty we need in Minnesota and across this Nation to continue making the necessary local policy and equipment adjustments to fulfill the letter and intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

As always, you can direct your questions to me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.