The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Is EPA Listening on the RFS, 'Blend Wall'?

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 14, 2013

Interesting analysis from Reuters, citing a leaked EPA document in which the agency indicates it may significantly reduce its biofuels mandate for 2014. The same document acknowledges that the refining “blend wall” is an “important reality,” according to Reuters. If accurate, the report suggests EPA is starting to hear what the oil and natural gas industry and a host of other voices have been saying about the flawed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Reuters:

If approved, the proposed cut in the biofuel mandate in 2014 to 15.21 billion gallons from 18.15 billion would mark an historic retreat from the ambitious 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) law that charted a path toward ever-greater use of clean, home-grown fuel, which the biofuel industry counts on to underpin bank loans and new factories.

As Reuters notes, EPA acknowledgement of the blend wall is important in the policy debate over the RFS. Ethanol supporters, who don’t want the RFS changed, have said the blend wall is a fiction created by the oil and natural gas industry. Apparently, it may not be fiction to EPA. The Reuters piece also says that a proposed reduction in the biofuels mandate would put ethanol backers in a “tough spot”:

The Renewable Fuels Association has previously argued that Congress need not amend the 2007 law because the EPA has enough flexibility under the law to make changes to reflect market realities. The agency is now exercising some of that discretion – but certainly not as proponents would like.

Basically, as long as EPA didn’t actually exercise its authority under the RFS to bring ethanol volumetric mandates into line with market reality, RFA rendered applause. But the Renewable Fuels Association’s Bob Dinneen told Reuters his group would fight an EPA rollback of the mandate. So, yeah – Big Ethanol was for EPA flexibility before it was against it.

The good news is the refining-blend-wall-as-fiction line may be one less canard RFA and its allies will use to muddy-up the public RFS debate.

Or maybe not.

Fact was hardly an impediment as ethanol supporters took to Twitter during last week’s forum on the RFS and biofuels mandates, hosted by National Journal. A sampling:


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.