Washington — After missing its deadline to announce a final 2020 biofuel mandate, the US Environmental Protection Agency may leave refiners and biofuel makers waiting until after the new year to know how much renewable fuel must be blended into the nation's gasoline and diesel supply.
"The longer this goes on, the greater uncertainty to our companies, who are complying with the [blending volumes] as well as to the marketplace in general," said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics, and regulatory affairs of the American Petroleum Institute.
EPA was on track to release the final Renewable Fuel Standard volumes by Congress' November 30 deadline, until it proposed changes at the 11th hour as part of the Trump administration's attempt to quell farm-state anger about granting small refineries widespread waivers to the biofuel mandate.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency "hopes to finalize the rule this winter."
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said in the past that he uses seasons, not months, when commenting on timelines for agency actions, as it gives more leeway if deadlines slip.
Not knowing the final 2020 blending volumes until late February, potentially, would cause uncertainty oil refiners and biofuel makers alike.
FLAT RINs PRICES
But ethanol trade group Growth Energy said it's better for EPA to take the time to fix the problems biofuel makers see in the current proposal. They want EPA to expand the mandate further to account for all the volumes the agency has waived for small refiners over the past three years.
"We believe it is far more important that EPA focuses on getting it right than out soon -- that's what's important for biofuel producers and farmers," said spokeswoman Leigh Claffey.
API and other oil trade groups want EPA to reverse the supplemental proposal.
Macchiarola said higher ethanol blends void warranties of "the vast majority of vehicles on the road," and current RFS volumes have already hit the so-called blendwall of 10% ethanol.
Ethanol RINs have hovered around 12-13 cents/RIN for the past three weeks, with slow trading activity as the market awaits EPA's next move.
S&P Global Platts assessed D6 ethanol RINs for 2019 compliance at 12.5 cents/RIN Wednesday.
RINs are tradable credits EPA issues to track production and use of alternative transportation fuels. For corn-based ethanol, one gallon of ethanol yields one RIN.
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