Post image for EPA Continues the Cellulosic Ethanol Folly

Last week the EPA dismissed a petition by the American Petroleum Institute seeking relief from the cellulosic ethanol mandate, which requires that oil refiners blend 8.65 million gallons of ethanol into the fuel supply by the end of 2012:

“In all cases, the objections raised in the petition either were or could have been raised during the comment period on the proposed rule, or are not of central relevance to the outcome of the rule because they do not provide substantial support for the argument that the Renewable Fuel Standard program should be revised as suggested by petitioners,” EPA told API, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Western States Petroleum Association, and Coffeyville (Kan.) Resources Refining & Marketing on May 22.

“EPA’s mandate is out of touch with reality and forces refiners to pay a penalty for not using imaginary biofuels,” Bob Greco, API’s downstream and industry operations director, said on May 25. “EPA’s unrealistic mandate is effectively an added tax on making gasoline.”

Greco said the Clean Air Act requires EPA to determine the mandated volume of cellulosic biofuels each year at “the projected volume available.” However, in 2011 EPA required refineries to use 6.6 million gal of cellulosic biofuels even though, according to EPA’s own records, none were commercially available, Greco said.

EPA has denied API’s 2011 petition to reconsider the mandate and continues to require these nonexistent biofuels this year, he indicated. Greco called the action “regulatory absurdity and bad public policy.”

As regular readers of this blog will know, the whole problem with the EPA’s non-flexible mandate is that there is no commercially available cellulosic ethanol, thus making it impossible to meet the mandate. The EPA’s justification for this policy is that they need to maintain an incentive for companies to begin producing cellulosic ethanol, despite many past failures. The oil refiners are also required to purchase these cellulosic ethanol waivers, effectively giving the government money instead of purchasing the non-existent fuel. [click to continue…]

Post image for Ethanol Still Not Lowering the Real Cost of Gasoline

In the wake of high gasoline prices, the ethanol industry is making the rounds in Washington, and they want you to believe that the Renewable Fuel Standard has lowered gasoline prices by up to $.89 per gallon. This would be remarkable, if it were true. The ethanol industry relies on a study produced by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at the University of Iowa. Here is the abstract:

This report updates the findings in Du and Hayes 2009 by extending the data to December 2010 and concludes that over the sample period from January 2000 to December 2010, the growth in ethanol production reduced wholesale gasoline prices by $0.25 per gallon on average. The Midwest region experienced the biggest impact, with a $0.39/gallon reduction, while the East Coast had the smallest impact at $0.16/gallon. Based on the data of 2010 only, the marginal impacts on gasoline prices are found to be substantially higher given the much higher ethanol production and crude oil prices. The average effect increases to $0.89/gallon and the regional impact ranges from $0.58/gallon in the East Coast to $1.37/gallon in the Midwest. In addition, we report on a related analysis that asks what would happen to US gasoline prices if ethanol production came to an immediate halt. Under a very wide range of parameters, the estimated gasoline price increase would be of historic proportions, ranging from 41% to 92%.

If we go to, we see that as of March 29, 2012 the average nationwide price-spread between E85 and E10 is 14.7%, with E85 costing an average of $3.31/gallon and E10 costing an average of $3.89/gallon. Ethanol has less energy content than gasoline, so a direct price comparison is not appropriate. The generally accepted metric is that E85 must be priced about 28% lower than E10 in order to break even, meaning that the cost per mile driven is equal between E85 and E10. [click to continue…]

Post image for Arguments Against Keystone Pipeline Fall Flat

Professional environmentalists are cheering President Obama’s rejection of construction permits for the KeystoneXL Pipeline. They are the only ones cheering, aside from a few NIMBY groups and The New York Times Obama’s always-loyal damage control cohorts. Even The Washington Post voted against Obama in this struggle. The pipeline was a small, but important part of our energy infrastructure and none of the arguments put forth against construction of the KeystoneXL Pipeline are convincing.

1. An initial argument claims that the KeystoneXL Pipeline will somehow not provide energy security for the United States.

Because consumers from around the country (and the world) use oil, pipelines are necessary to transfer mind-bogglingly large amounts of it around the country each day. Imagine a scenario where we randomly begin shutting down oil and natural gas pipelines around the United States. The obvious result of decreasing our capacity would be decreased security, as we are less capable of moving oil around our country to deal with shocks, disasters, etc. Now think about what adding a pipeline does: it increases our capacity to transport oil around the country. Ultimately, this must increase to some extent our energy security. [click to continue…]

Post image for WSJ Editorializes Against Cellulosic Ethanol

The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial commenting on the cellulosic ethanol mandate, which CEI has written extensively about in the past. They write:

Most important, the Nancy Pelosi Congress passed and Mr. Bush signed a law imposing mandates on oil companies to blend cellulosic fuel into conventional gasoline. This guaranteed producers a market. In 2010 the mandate was 100 million barrels, rising to 250 million in 2011 and 500 million in 2012. By the end of this decade the requirements leap to 10.5 billion gallons a year.

When these mandates were established, no companies produced commercially viable cellulosic fuel. But the dream was: If you mandate and subsidize it, someone will build it.

Guess what? Nobody has. Despite the taxpayer enticements, this year cellulosic fuel production won’t be 250 million or even 25 million gallons. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the authority to revise the mandates, quietly reduced the 2011 requirement by 243.4 million gallons to a mere 6.6 million. Some critics suggest that even much of that 6.6 million isn’t true cellulosic fuel. [click to continue…]

Post image for The Consequences of our Biofuel Policy

Dave Juday, a commodity analyst writing in The Weekly Standard, has a long essay covering the largely negative consequences of our nation’s ethanol policy. He covers many of the familiar arguments, such as rising food costs and the ongoing nonexistence of cellulosic ethanol, but also many topics less often covered by the media, such as the clever ability of corporations to take advantage of these subsidies in ways that were not intended:

For a time, the $1 tax credit provided a huge incentive to import soy oil from South America, blend it with a small amount of petroleum diesel to claim the U.S. tax credit​—​the blending often occurred while the tanker ship was still in port​—​and then re-export the blended fuel to Europe to further capture EU subsidies. That little scheme was known as “splash and dash,” and it was a $300 million subsidy to promote domestic biofuel use that did not in fact subsidize biodiesel use in the United States.

Consider the absurdity of splash and dash at its height: According to the Department of Energy, in 2008 the United States produced 678 million gallons of biodiesel and exported 677 million gallons. We imported 315 million gallons, and domestic U.S. consumption was 316 million gallons. That particular stratagem ended in 2009, but exports haven’t. Despite not meeting the mandated minimum for domestic biodiesel use last year, more than a third of the biodiesel produced in this country was exported in 2010. [click to continue…]

Post image for Ethanol Advocacy Groups Want More Ethanol

In a post titled “An ‘open’ and shut case for an enduring American energy policy: The infallibility of free markets underscores the philosophy for FuelChoiceNow” two authors argue that markets are generally the best method to reward new products and technologies while dismissing those that don’t quite pan out.

So, its odd to see that the the rest of the post goes on to demand that the government intervene in the market to require that automobile producers adjust their industrial processes and begin to build each car as flex-fuel compatible, meaning that it can run on higher blends of ethanol. Let’s address their arguments:

[click to continue…]

Rick Perry on Ethanol

by Brian McGraw on August 29, 2011

in Blog

Post image for Rick Perry on Ethanol

Rick Perry seems to be taking a tough position against government support for renewable fuels:

Not satisfied with that answer, Iowa Corn Growers Association president Dean Taylor tried again, stepping to the microphone to ask if Perry as president would support the renewable fuel standard that’s currently the law.

Perry answered: “Here’s my position on this issue again. I go back to ridding you of the regulations.

“The oil and gas industry will be asked the same thing. Would you rather have the subsidies, incentives, whatever you want to call them or would you rather have a government that actually removed the regulations?

“Think about what the EPA costs you every day in this country. What it costs John Deere. What it costs every manufacturing plant. [click to continue…]

Post image for Where is the Cellulosic Ethanol?

Last month the EPA released its proposed 2012 cellulosic ethanol “mandate.” It suggests that there will be somewhere between 3.45-12.9 million gallons of qualifying cellulosic ethanol produced in 2012, though the number will be finalized in November. Note, as discussed previously, the industry has still not produced any qualifying cellulosic ethanol, and the EPA has consistently lowered the ‘mandate’ by over 90% in previous years. (A recently announced cellulosic plant claims it will produce cellulosic ethanol from, wait for it,  corn waste. So much for being a bridge fuel to the future).

In comments on the proposed 2012 production volumes, the ethanol industry begged the EPA to use the higher end of the standard:

In contrast, Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, urged the EPA to continue its aggressive goals regarding cellulosic biofuels, stating that the agency’s mandated volume directly affects the industry’s ability to produce fuel. “There is this funny thing going here where you guys have to go out and measure capacity, but the numbers you come out with and the amount of capacity that you put into the Federal Register will have a giant effect on how much capacity we actually create,” he said.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Ethanol Tax Credit More Likely to Expire

The ethanol compromise did not make it into any debt ceiling negotiations and its future is now looking bleaker than ever before. The Congressional ‘super-committee’ established by the debt ceiling negotiations will have to decide by November 23rd some manner to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion or face potentially unpopular automatic spending cuts to defense and discretionary spending (though USA Today writes that these “threats” have failed in the past). None of the rumored super-committee members seem to be from regions that would require their support of the ethanol industry

The ‘ethanol compromise’ had legs because it funneled money into the domestic ethanol industry while still maintaining a facade of deficit reduction. It would have collected $2 billion in revenue from the ending of the domestic tax credit as of July 21 and used a small amount less than that to spend on items near and dear to the ethanol industry (mainly ongoing support for cellulosic ethanol and money for the installation of blender pumps at fueling stations), hence their support.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Cellulosic Ethanol “Mandate” Downgraded Again

Today the EPA announced its proposed 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard requirements:

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner, importer, and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline or diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

The proposed 2012 overall volumes and standards are:

Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
Cellulosic biofuels (3.45 – 12.9 million gallons; 0.002 – 0.010 percent)
Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.21 percent) [click to continue…]