White House Further Delays 2021 RFS Blending Mandates

The Biden Administration has delayed the EPA’s proposed RFS biofuel blending mandates for 2021 and possibly 2022 pending a decision how to address the competing interests of the ethanol and oil industries and their political backers.

The RFS divides Democrats and Republicans along regional lines that pit Midwestern biofuels supporters against biofuel supporters against and backers of the oil industry who believe ethanol is bad for the environment.

Complicating the process is razor thin support in the Senate for the pending infrastructure package that the White House worries could be used as leverage if the RFS blending mandates were to be released sooner than later.

The EPA is required by law to set RFS blending mandates by November 30th each year for the following year’s obligations. However, the EPA has not submitted its proposed blending mandates to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which typically takes 90 days to sign off on proposed regulations.

Presidential election politics together with the difficulty of establishing 2021 blending mandates based on skewed gasoline consumption data from 2020 due to COVID were initially responsible for EPA’s delay. Nevertheless, the agency expected to propose blending mandates this spring.

But that deadline was missed as well due to the EPA’s need to sort out three significant court rulings, one from the Supreme Court and two from the U.S. Court of Appeals, that bear directly on the RFS blending volumes. Due to the time required for OMB review and the mandatory notice and public comment period, it is likely the EPA may delay release of proposed 2021 blending mandates until November 30th when 2022 volumes are announced.

Underscoring the political complexity of the RFS, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill on July 20 to eliminate “implied” corn ethanol mandate under the RFS.

The RFS program does not explicitly mandate corn ethanol, but most of the program’s overall requirement is still satisfied by a de facto 15 billion gallons corn ethanol statutory volume. The senators want to end that mandate and move to renewable fuels providing greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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