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EPA relaxes biofuel standards through 2014

August 06, 2013|By Shan Li
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing biofuel standards for the next two years.
The Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing biofuel standards for… (Frederic J. Brown/ AFP/Getty…)

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday extended the deadline for meeting biofuel goals this year and will lower renewable fuel targets for 2014, a move designed to give oil refineries more flexibility.

The 2013 rules, months late in coming, mandates that 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the U.S. gas and diesel supply, up from 15.2 billion gallons last year.

But the agency gave oil refineries an extra four months to comply, with the deadline extended to June 2014. The biofuel targets for next year will also be reduced, the agency said.

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Experts say that as American gas consumption declines, partly as a result of more fuel efficient vehicles, refineries are increasingly blending more ethanol into their gas supplies to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard.

That means refineries are required to mix the same amount of ethanol into an ever decreasing amount of gas actually consumed, edging them closer to hitting the point at which 10% of every gallon is ethanol -- called the "E10 blend wall" in oil circles.

It's called a wall because many retail outlets, such as gas stations, won't accept a fuel that exceeds more than 10% ethanol, said Bruce Bullock, executive director of Southern Methodist University's Maguire Energy Institute. That's because car manufacturers recommend against drivers filling up with that kind of gas.

Those fuels are "viewed as corrosive," Bullock said. "The engine manufacturers have a concern about putting more than 10% into engines, in that it might harm the lives of their engines or other parts. So they are strongly resisting going above 10% ethanol."

The EPA is trying to head off those in Congress who are calling for a repeal of certain biofuel standards by adding more flexibility to the rules, Bullock said.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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