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EPA increases ethanol levels in fuel standard

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized renewable fuel standards through 2016.

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized renewable fuel standards through 2016, angering the ethanol industry but still increasing ethanol requirements and effectively breaking the so-called blend wall.

The blend wall is the term given to the amount of ethanol in the overall fuel supply that the engine fleet can tolerate without damage, which most industries believe is E10, or gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol. E15, or gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, has been shown to cause damage to marine and other small engines.

“While the ruling falls short of the worst-case scenario, it still mandates the breaking of the blend wall in 2016,” the National Marine Manufacturers Association said in a post today. “Due to this ruling, more ethanol, largely in the form of E15, will be required across the country’s fuel supply.”

The EPA released the standard on Monday and acknowledged the comments and testimony from the NMMA and other industries that opposed the increases proposed, which already fell short of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s requirements for increasing biofuels.

“The final requirements will boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry,” the EPA wrote in the ruling. “The final rule considered the many public comments EPA received on the proposal and incorporates updated information and data. EPA is finalizing 2014 and 2015 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) that represent significant growth over historical levels.”

The final 2016 standard for advanced biofuel is nearly 1 billion gallons, or 35 percent, higher than the actual 2014 volumes, and the total renewable fuel standard requires growth from 2014 to 2016 of more than 1.8 billion gallons of biofuel, or 11 percent more than 2014 actual volumes.

Biodiesel standards grow steadily during the next several years, increasing every year to reach 2 billion gallons by 2017.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad issued a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” that the EPA’s final decision failed to follow renewable fuel standards Congress set in 2007. Critics say those mandates were based on the assumption that gasoline consumption would rise. It has significantly dropped since the RFS was passed.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association told the Des Moines Register that the new standards would hurt farmers “already struggling with low farm income and commodity prices that in many cases are at or below their cost of production.”

The NMMA and its coalition of supporters continue to urge Congress to fix what they call a “failed policy.”

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