In late 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed – for the first time ever – a slight slacking of the 2014 renewable fuel standard. The reason was that the US is coming up on the 'blend wall,' the overall level of ethanol in the national gasoline supply where adding any more biofuel would push the average blend in 'normal' gas above 10 percent. As we know, this is a contentious issue. So contentious that, as the EPA collects comments about the rule change, almost 11,000 comments have already been submitted about adding just 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol to the national gasoline supply in 2014. Many major automakers would be ready with 2014 model year vehicles that are capable of burning 15-percent ethanol-blended gasoline (E15), but is the US as a whole?
A new report says that the White House was involved in the EPA's proposed rulemaking. While the final biofuel production target didn't end up changing, according to interagency draft proposal review documents seen by E & E News, the whole reason the EPA mentioned the blend wall in its proposal was because the White House raised questions about how much 'advanced' ethanol the US biofuel industry will be able to make and about the biodiesel industry in general. The White House said it was concerned that the proposed biofuel level could impact Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) that make up the biofuel compliance market. According to E & E News, a reviewer from the Office of Management and Budget wrote, "If [biofuel] volumes are too high, then the prices of RINs will be high and we will face a real problem." When worries about hitting the blend wall spiked last year, RIN prices did the same thing, "soaring from a few cents per credit to $1.44," E & E News wrote. There's lots more over there.