EPA Sets 2016 Renewable Fuel Standard at 18B Gallons

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday issued its final rule designed to increase production of ethanol to be blended with gasoline through 2016.

The agency said it will require more than 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels, most of it ethanol, next year. The amount is less than what was set in a 2007 renewable fuels law, but more than what was proposed by the EPA in May, according to The Associated Press.

The May proposal called for refiners to use 17.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016, with approximately 14 billion gallons coming from traditional corn-based ethanol and 3.4 billion gallons coming from advanced biofuels, as CSNews Online previously reported.

The final rule doesn't necessarily mean a higher percentage of ethanol in an individual driver's tank, and isn't likely to have much effect on gas prices. But it does mean there will a higher supply of the homegrown fuel overall, the AP reported.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said the renewable fuels industry is "an incredible American success story" and the 2016 targets are a signal it is growing.

"It's all about more choice and making those fuels more available" to consumers, McCabe said.

More renewable fuels are good news for farm country. But ethanol critics say the levels are too high.

According to the news outlet, oil companies fought the 2007 law, saying the market, not the government, should determine how much ethanol is blended into their gas. Environmental groups, meanwhile, say farmers growing large amounts of corn for ethanol are tearing up the land. 

The renewable fuels law seeks to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and bolster the rural economy by requiring a steady increase in the overall amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels blended into gasoline over time. The Renewable Fuel Standard, as it is called, sets specific yearly targets.

Since its inception, the EPA has said the standards set by the law cannot be fully reached due partly to limits on the amount of renewable fuels other than ethanol that can be produced. Next-generation biofuels, made from agricultural waste such as wood chips and corncobs, have not taken off as quickly as Congress required and the administration expected, the AP report noted.

Still, the new final rule setting targets for 2015, 2016 and retroactively for 2014 represents an overall increase in the use of renewable fuels.

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