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EPA defends cellulosic requirement

August 22, 2012  by Argus Media

Aug. 22, 2012, Houston, TX – Brazilian sugarcane imports and domestic biodiesel production will help meet federal renewable fuel requirements, even if non-food ethanol cannot, US regulators argued in court documents filed this week.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defended its 8.65mn USG volume requirement for cellulosic ethanol blending in 2012 against arguments that producers may not have output anywhere near that volume. Cellulosic ethanol makers use trash, grasses and other non-food sources to produce biofuel.

Producers did not manage to make a gallon of the fuel commercially available last year. Absent actual gallons of the fuel, obligated buyers must purchase credits directly from the agency. EPA used company websites and US Energy Information Administration data to determine levels it considered realistic for this year, the agency said in a filing with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Oil industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) objected to how the EPA set the volume of cellulosic ethanol fuel producers and importers are required to blend to comply with federal mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and petitioned the court to consider whether the decisions violated the Clean Air Act.

The group also opposed EPA’s decision not to reduce the 2bn USG mandated volume of advanced biofuels – a broader category including non-corn-derived ethanol and biodiesel – as it slashed the required volume of cellulosic ethanol.

Biomass-based biodiesel production had 2.4bn USG of underutilized capacity, and would ramp toward that level to help meet the advanced biofuels requirement, the agency said. Increased sugar ethanol imports would also make the 2bn USG level achievable, the agency said in the filing.

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