Reasonable Estimates of Cellulosic Biofuel Production

by Brian McGraw on August 22, 2012

in Blog

Yesterday The Hill‘s Energy Blog reported on a brief filed by the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia:

The documents filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reveal the reasoning behind EPA’s move to shoot down the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) challenge of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). EPA determined that enough advanced biofuels — generally understood to be made from non-food products — existed to meet that portion of the RFS for 2012.

“EPA reasonably considered the production capacity likely to be developed throughout the year, while API would have EPA rely narrowly and solely on proven past cellulosic biofuel production,” EPA said in its brief. “EPA reasoned that lowering the advanced biofuel volume in these circumstances would be inconsistent with EISA’s [the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007] energy security and greenhouse gas reduction goals, and decided to leave the statutory advanced biofuel volume unchanged.”

The (main) question here is what the 2012 cellulosic biofuel requirements should be set at. The EPA is arguing that they took a reasonable look at capacity production and put out what they thought could be developed, while the American Petroleum Institute is only looking at historic cellulosic biofuel production. So who is being reasonable?

Bob Greco over at the Energy Tomorrow blog produced this graph:

The large blue bars indicate the original blending requirements under the Energy Independence and Security Act. To the EPA’s credit, they had nothing to do with the original blending requirements. The lighter turquiose-ish are the finalized numbers requested by the EPA, as they are allowed to adjust requirements to fit reality. The red number represents actual commercial cellulosic ethanol production, according to the EPA’s own numbers.

Until this April there was zero commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, when 20,000 gallons were produced.

So, again, we ask: who is being unreasonable? The EPA who somehow still maintains that 8.65 million gallons will be produced in 2012? Or the American Petroleum Institute? Even if the API requested that the blending requirement be reduced to zero, their final guess will be much closer to reality than the estimate of the EPA.

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