Big Ethanol's bad week just got worse: EPA announces reduction to 2014 biofuels requirements

The corn ethanol lobby has not been having a good week, with industry representatives busily hitting back against an in-depth Associated Press investigation that shines just a little too much light on the longstanding but uncomfortable fact that the federal government’s enthusiastic enforcement of the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard is definitively not the “green” climate-change solution its proponents like to avidly pretend it is, but rather just the opposite.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires the country’s refiners to blend a certain amount of biofuels into the fuel supply, but oil companies have lately been warning that the annually increasing total amount of biofuels they are required to use combined with slackening demand for gasoline is running them up against the “blend wall,” the point at which most cars can no longer handle the amount of ethanol in the mixed fuel. In October, a rather controversial rumor went around that the Environmental Protection Agency might finally be considering acknowledging this reality by partially easing up on the required biofuels quotas, which in turn sparked a slew of furious lobbying from both sides with Big Ethanol arguing that not furthering the consumer mandate would more or less amount to a national travesty.

Boom. Via the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed smaller requirements for biofuel use in 2014, trimming targets for corn-based ethanol for the first time ever and setting ethanol use at 15.21 billion gallons, just under 10 percent of motor fuel and 14 percent lower than targets established by Congress in 2007.

The agency’s proposal angered farm groups, corn ethanol producers and supporters of biodiesel, but it mollified oil companies, which have long argued that if the content of ethanol in motor fuel exceeded 10 percent — known as the blend wall — it might damage cars, motorcycles and lawn mowers. Groups representing ethanol makers say that mixing significantly higher levels of ethanol with gasoline would not harm vehicles.

“Facts are facts,” said Stephen H. Brown, vice president for governmental affairs at the oil refiner Tesoro. “They’re so stubborn even this administration has to accept them.”

“They’re capitulating to the oil companies,” Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said of the administration. He said EPA’s proposed targets would hurt farmers and violate the spirit of the renewable fuels standard Congress adopted. “The RFS was about forcing marketplace change,” he said, “and EPA is giving the oil companies a get of jail free card.”

“The RFS was about forcing marketplace change.” …Yes, how in the world could that have ever gone wrong?