EPA’s RFS rule draws rebukes from industry, Iowa politicians

DES MOINES — The Environmental Protection Agency has released its final rule for biofuel blending requirements over the next three years, with ethanol production targets that are not as high as initially proposed in December.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said this latest EPA decision fails to meet the intent of the Renewable Fuels Standard. “It’s actually a pull back, if you will, and a disappointing number on ethanol in particular,” Naig said, “but it’s certainly doesn’t recognize the opportunity on the biodiesel and renewable diesel side.”

The rule does increase production requirements for biodiesel and renewable diesel, but Naig indicated those levels are below current usage. The state ag secretary is also accusing the EPA of pitting one sector of the renewable fuels industry against another by lowering the ethanol numbers.

“The point is to send signals and to set targets that will allow for not just the normal operation of the industry, but actually an expansion, a continued investment,” Naig told Radio Iowa, “and so when you don’t have that, when you are sending the opposite signal which is that we’re going to run along with the status quo or even less, you should expect that the economics for some of these plants just won’t add up.”

Naig, a Republican who’s been the state’s ag secretary since early 2018, said the Biden Administration has failed to support the benefits of renewable fuel production.  “Consumers are the ones who benefit from higher blends, domestic energy production,” Naig said, “so really it’s the price at the the pump that consumers are going to be hit with.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said for an administration “obsessed with reducing carbon emissions, this rule makes absolutely no sense.” Senator Joni Enrst, a Republican from Red Oak, said the Biden Administration is “refusing to recognize: that biodiesel and ethanol are homegrown, cleaner fuel solutions that are available today.

The president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association said the proposal “fails on all fronts” and the head of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said the EPA has set up a :lose-lose situation” for ethanol and biodiesel producers.

Critics say the Renewable Fuels Standard diverts too much prime farmland to produce fuel rather than food.