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Karl's Column - Heading off the EPA

by Carolyn Binder

  It’s been fairly well established - - at least to my satisfaction, that U.S. Biofuel policies were developed to reduce dependence on foreign oil and to address climate change concerns.  Actually, I’ve always leaned far more heavily toward that independence factor.  I do hope the new Congress very early this year will head off the Environmental Protection Agency and its plans to lower the conventional renewable fuel requirement for this year, 2014.  The EPA proposal is referred to as its RVO proposal. RVO, in this case, is taken to mean Renewable

 Volume Obligation.  I had a little trouble with that one, as the dictionary defines RVO as “Return Value Optimization”  and the follow-up explanation wandered off into an exercise beyond me, expressing it as compiler optimization technique.  I wasn’t really surprised to discover that some federal agency - - EPA, in this case apparently appropriated the acronym to express “Renewable Volume Obligation”.

Anyway, before this story gets too long, let us hasten to note that while federal law has already established the volume of renewable fuels to be produced in 2014,  the crude oil industry has persuaded EPA that the Renewable Fuels folks can’t meet the legislated requirements, and that the requirements should be cut back.

During the comment period following the proposed reduction, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dineen wrote, “I expect reason and fact to replace the fear and misinformation peddled by Big Oil, and seemingly adopted for this proposal.”  In that same news release containing Dineen’s expressions of hope, the RFA contends EPA does not have the statutory authority to lower the total requirement by more than the total reduction in advanced and cellulosic.  If I had the opportunity, I would ask Mr. Dineen if he has been paying attention to goings-on in Washington recently.  I would remind him of the National Security Agency perhaps exceeding its statutory authority; and how about the Justice Department declining to prosecute or at least pursue investigation of alleged federal crimes.  I can’t say it will happen, but I can say I’d not be surprised if EPA - - it’s just a federal agency, after all - - does indeed override the statutes creating the renewable fuels industry. Early in January, Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development analyzed this whole thing on renewable fuels, the EPA proposal and the rationale thereof, and concluded the 16-page report with this:  In closing, the authors express bewilderment over the intent of the proposed rule - - “...it would be difficult to interpret EPA’s proposed fundamental shift in policy as anything except a reduction in overall support for biofuels, however nuanced one might want to interpret the intent of the proposed rule.”

A skewer still hurts, even when blunted by diplomacy . . . .