RFS Hearing Takeaways: EPA in USDA’s Shadow

Today’s EPA public hearing on its proposed 2017 Renewable Fuel Standard unfolded largely according plan. As in previous years, a broad range of ethanol and advanced biofuel stakeholders from across the country spoke to the importance of dispensing with the oil industry’s “blend wall” and allowing the RFS to reach its full volumetric potential, touting the benefits already realized for consumers, rural communities and domestic energy production.

Disappointment that President Obama’s EPA has apparently chosen not to end its final year on a stronger note for biofuels was palpable–a sharp contrast to stakeholder enthusiasm for the Obama Department of Agriculture. Five thousand higher-blend fuel pumps and storage tanks are currently under construction at 1400 stations across 21 states as a result of USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), finalized last fall with $100 million in competitive federal grants and $110 million in matching dollars from state and private partners. The reception was such that EPA officials felt compelled to repeatedly emphasize the extent of their “ongoing cooperation” with USDA in today’s hearing.

The President’s FY17 USDA budget request includes $43 million for increasing biofuel demand along BIP lines, earmarked through the Farm Service Agency’s Commodity Credit Corporation (which supplied last year’s funds). More information is available here.

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