It is one heck of a bizarre, twisted role reversal when the Environmental Protection Agency is the one acting as the voice of reason in any of their countless political battles, but I take it as a testament to just how deeply messed up this entire Renewable Fuel Standard debacle really is. Big Ethanol flew into an almighty uproar last month when the EPA announced that they were finally planning to relent on their scheduled increases to the biofuel volumes that refiners are required to blend into the nation’s fuel supply, and the powerful lobby has been hinting that they will challenge the EPA’s legal authority to make any adjustments to the RFS other than ones that continue to expand the mandate.
In other words, ethanol producers would really like the EPA to just flatly deny the undeniable reality that refiners are running up against the “blend wall,” a.k.a. the point at which mixing the required volumes will exceed the 10 percent ethanol threshold that auto manufacturers deem acceptable for use in cars and trucks, largely because the RFS’s crucial assumption that Americans will continue to consume an ever-increasing amount of gasoline hasn’t actually panned out.
Keeping up the charade is a completely unrealistic stance on which I don’t think even the EPA is willing to double down, as one official testified in a Congressional hearing today, via The Hill:
A top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official said on Wednesday that the agency’s biofuel program has led to an unrealistic demand for petroleum refiners, a confirmation of warnings that have long been made by oil companies.
Christopher Grundler, the head of the EPA’s Transportation and Air Quality Office, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has threatened to force petroleum refiners to mix a blend of gasoline that cars can’t use. …
“We’re recognizing that the blend wall has been reached,” he said during Wednesday’s hearing on the annual mandate.
“Reaching the blend wall clearly presents constraints to using higher ethanol quantities because of the infrastructure and other market limitations,” Grundler added. …
Many car companies have told drivers that using a blend of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol could void their warranties. The driving club AAA has also warned that the blend is “potentially damaging” and could drive up gas prices at the pump.
Of course, the EPA has known for ages that this particular piece of corporate pork was a market-inflating, price-spiking, not-“green” endeavor that they only pretended to like because it helped lengthen the list of their super awesome, “all of the above” climate-change plans, but the total failure of the RFS to spur the commercial cellulosic ethanol production on which they were hanging their grandiose hopes is well past the point of political dismissal.
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