EPA rejects request to reduce renewable fuels mandate
Aug. 8, 2008 - - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week rejected
the request of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to reduce the nationwide Renewable Fuels
Standard (RFS). As a result, the required total volume of renewable fuels, such
as ethanol and biodiesel, mandated by law to be blended into the fuel supply
will remain at 9 billion gallons in 2008 and 11.1 billion gallons in 2009.
“After reviewing the facts, it was clear this request did not meet the criteria
in the law,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “The RFS remains an
important tool in our ongoing efforts to reduce America’s greenhouse gas
emissions and lessen our dependence on foreign oil, in aggressive yet practical
Current law authorizes EPA to waive the national RFS if the agency determines that the mandated biofuel volumes would cause “severe harm” to the economy or the environment.
The agency recognizes that high commodity prices are negatively affecting the economy, but extensive EPA analysis of the Texas request found no compelling evidence that the RFS mandate is causing severe economic harm during the time period specified by Texas.
The decision was criticized by several food industry groups. They argued that the RFS, along with tax incentives for blending ethanol into gasoline and tariffs on cheaper, imported ethanol, have distorted the market and helped drive up record prices for corn and other grains. This translates into higher prices for food and animal feed, which means consumers pay more for eggs, milk, meat, and poultry. “The Bush Administration has missed a chance to immediately reduce food prices and, more importantly, to avoid the certainty of much higher food prices in 2009,” said Scott Faber, vice president for federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Congress and the next Administration must immediately restructure our food-to-fuel policies if we want to avoid runaway food inflation for many years to come,” he said.
Many supporters of the waiver request also note the environmental damage caused by food-to-fuel mandates. “It is unfortunate but unsurprising that EPA has once again ignored a stark environmental reality,” said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. “While the U.S. holds fast to misguided biofuels policies, the rest of the world is catching on. Last month, the EU reversed its course and set a far lower target for biofuels in recognition of their unintended consequences. The US cannot afford to continue lagging behind on this issue, when food prices are rising and hungry people across the globe are suffering. Hopefully Congress can succeed where EPA has failed,” said Brown.