Days after a federal appeals court said the Obama administration is setting overly optimistic production quotas for the struggling biofuels industry, the government issued new standards Thursday that raise production estimates for 2013.
New standards announced by the Environmental Protection Agency require production of 14 million gallons of so-called cellulosic biofuels made from grasses and woody material. That’s up from an 8.7 million-gallon requirement in 2012 – when actual production was near zero.
An oil industry representative said the Obama administration was thumbing its nose at a ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court threw out the 2012 mandate for cellulosic biofuels, saying it was based on wishful thinking rather than accurate estimates for an industry the Obama administration wants to encourage. Administration officials have said that increased use of biofuels could lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, as well as lower U.S. dependence on foreign fuel.
“The court recognized the absurdity of fining companies for failing to use a nonexistent biofuel,” said Bob Greco, director of downstream operations for the American Petroleum Institute, the principal lobbying group for the oil and gas industry.
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Greco said he was astonished that EPA would nearly double the mandate for biofuel in 2013. “EPA needs a serious reality check,” he said, calling the mandate a “stealth tax on gasoline” and an “egregious example of bad public policy.”
EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said the agency believes the proposed standards “are a reasonable representation of expected production” of biofuels this year.
The biofuels mandate is part of a 2007 renewable fuels law that requires a certain amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels to be mixed in with gasoline each year. Despite annual EPA projections for millions of gallon of biofuels made from switchgrass, corn husks or wood pulp, little production has materialized.
According to final EPA estimates, no cellulosic fuel was produced in 2010 or 2011. Only about 25,000 gallons was produced last year.