During a U.S. Senate hearing, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler answered questions about ethanol, biofuels, the RFS, and small refinery waivers. He appears to be holding the same line Scott Pruitt took during his time at the helm of the agency with some notable differences.
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The courts have ruled in favor of biofuels made from corn and soybeans.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. under took a case to define the meaning of three words in the Renewable Fuel Standard written by the United States Congress. The three words, a phrase, are “inadequate domestic supply”. Congress through them says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin granted the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, the right to grant a waiver allowing energy producers not to follow the law, “Which commonsense would say, yes, you need that kind of escape clause in the statute that would say if a biofuel is not being produced you cannot require someone to consume it.”
The Obama Administration’s EPA interpreted the clause to also mean inadequate domestic demand, and consequently limited the mandated use of biofuels in the United States. The court ruled on how the EPA limited biofuels in 2016, however, it may be, thinks Irwin, that EPA will need to make good actions it took in 2014, 2015 and 2016. This may mean the gallons of biofuels not mandated for use in those three years will have to be produced and used says Irwin, “That’s right, and they even conveniently provided a table in the ruling with their calculations of how much mandate was waived that should not have been. In the three years this added up to 2.24 billion gallons of ethanol equivalents was at play in the cuts that have now been basically declared illegal.”
In the three years this added up to 2.24 billion gallons of ethanol equivalents at play in the cuts that have now been basically declared illegal.It would take about 800 million bushels of corn to make that much ethanol. However, because there are two parts to the RFS relating to ethanol, it’s not likely corn based ethanol will be the big winner when it comes to making up the lost gallons thinks Scott Irwin, “Because of the E–10 blend wall I think, ultimately, the beneficiary of this will be biodiesel or more broadly speaking biomass based diesel. It has been filling the gaps in the E–10 blend wall in the ethanol mandate for a number of years and I don’t see why that would change dramatically with this rule making.”
Because of the E–10 blend wall I think, ultimately, the beneficiary of this will be biodiesel…The back fill will require about one-point-five billion gallons of biodiesel. It would use about 11 billion pounds of feed stock. The number one feed stock is soybean oil.
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by Scott Irwin & Darrel Good, Agricultural Economists
University of Illinois
read full blog post
We analyzed the magnitude of the “push” in production and consumption of biofuels implied by the proposed rulemaking for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for 2018 released last week. We find that the proposed standard for 2018 implies a measurable push in the consumption of conventional ethanol since the mandate exceeds expected domestic consumption. The magnitude of that gap is estimated at 640 million gallons for 2018, compared to the estimate for a record large gap in 2017 of 738 million gallons. The gap ranged from 260 to 457 million gallons in 2014–2016. The advanced biofuels mandate is estimated at 684 million gallons in 2018, compared to the estimate of 900 million gallons in 2017 and the actual gap of 438 million gallons in 2016. Our analysis of the proposed rulemaking for 2018 implies:
(1) The EPA under the new Administration is “staying the course” on the implied conventional ethanol mandate with that mandate at the statutory level of 15 billion gallons. If that policy continues and the rate of increase in domestic gasoline consumption does not accelerate more rapidly, there will continue to be a notable conventional ethanol gap beyond 2018.
(2) The push in advance biofuels production and consumption remains large, but is smaller than in 2017 as both the total biofuels mandate dropped and the mandate for undifferentiated advanced biofuels declined marginally. However, the minimum undifferentiated mandate will increase by statute in 2019 to 4.5 billion gallons. So, even though the biodiesel mandate is proposed to stay constant at 2.1 billion gallons for 2019, the total advanced mandate gap could jump another 260 million gallons (4.5 –4.24 billion gallons).
(3) The relatively large conventional ethanol gap implied for 2017 and 2018 suggests that the current discount in the price of D6 (ethanol) RINs relative to D4 (biomass-based diesel) RINs will continue to narrow towards equality (e.g., farmdoc daily, December 4, 2015).
(4) Biomass-based diesel is likely to remain the “marginal gallon” for filling both the conventional and advanced mandate gaps. This means relatively large levels of biodiesel production will continue to be required which in turn will require large levels of fats and oils feedstock.
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University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin discusses rumors driving the commodity markets Tuesday, February 28, 2017 related to biofuels and the Trump administration with U of I Extension Farm Broadcaster Todd Gleason.
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Source | Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois
The price of soybeans rallied about 10 percent from mid-October to mid-November. It came,despite the record sized crop harvested in the United States.
Farmers have been in awe of the soybean market since mid-August. There have been a few reasons for it to rally; a short crop out of South America and a drought constrained supply of palm oil coming from Indonesia for instance. Still, this U.S. soybean crop is big, mighty big in fact. Yet, the price of soybeans has gone higher.
Darrel Good writes about it in this week’s Weekly Outlook. You may read it online at FarmDocDaily.
There are two unusual things about this price rally. Well, one really, but it is driven by the first. The rally has come because the world seems to be short of vegetable oils. Soybean oil is among those. Here’s the important part, soybean oil lead rallies generally do not last. Darrel Good thinks this one might and that it could change the dynamics of the soybean complex. The change is driven by the Renewable Fuels Standard. The RFS did the same thing for the corn market when it began to ramp up ethanol production in the United States more than a decade ago.
The soy complex is made up of three parts; the price of soybeans, the price of soybean meal, and the price of soybean oil. The last two are the products derived from the soybean when it is processed, crushed.
The EPA RFS announcement, made last week, initially resulted in a surge in soybean oil and soybean prices. Increasing soybean oil consumption for mandated advanced biofuels, in this case biodiesel production, this year and beyond may require the domestic soybean crush to be larger than previously thought concludes Darrel Good. He says this could lead to some long-term pricing questions.
Historically, the domestic crush has been driven by soybean meal demand. If it is driven instead by soybean oil demand, this could result in lower soybean meal prices. Soybean meal has a short shelf life. Its price would need to be low enough to for it to be used quickly.
The impact of higher soybean oil prices and lower soybean meal prices on the price of soybeans is difficult to anticipate. However, a “surplus” of soybean meal, says Good, might result in lower soybean meal prices relative to feed grain prices. It could cause the soybean meal to corn price ratio that has ranged from 2.55 to 3.2 in recent years to decline. The historical range is 2.0 to 2.5.
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Commodity traders are generally thinking last week’s EPA RFS rule making will cause more bushels of corn to be turned into ethanol next year. Todd Gleason reports University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good is more doubtful.
Let’s start by building a corn for ethanol baseline to see why. The EIA, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, says U.S. production of fuel ethanol in 2014 totaled 14 billion 313 million gallons. That was about a billion gallons more than in 2013, and nearly 400 million gallons more than the record setting year of 2011. So, 14.313 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in 2014. During the first nine months of this year, writes Darrel Good on the Farm Doc Daily website, EIA shows production 3.6 percent larger than during the same 9 months last year. It appears October and November were on that same track, and while December looks to be off a bit, it should leave the yearly consumption at a whooping and record setting 14.745 billion gallons says U of I’s Good.
Quote Summary - Production at that level will require about 5.25 billion bushels of feedstock, mostly corn, for conventional ethanol production in 2015.
So the baseline is big, but let’s start back figuring for 2016 corn usage to make ethanol. U.S. EPA just released biofuels volumes for 2016. Those standards point to conventional ethanol consumption of 14.5 billion gallons for 2016. It’s about a 500 million gallon year-to-year increase says Good, however there is a second related factor. That factor is the blend wall, or how much gasoline is actually consumed in the United States .
Quote Summary - Based on EIA projections, consumption is expected to increase from 139.38 billion gallons in 2015 to 139.96 billion gallons in 2016. That expected increase of 580 million gallons follows an expected increase of 2.9 billion gallons in 2015. The conventional ethanol mandate of 14.5 billion gallons, then, reflects an expected small increase in the E–10 blend wall and a “push” to include larger quantities of higher ethanol blends (E–15 and E–85) in the domestic fuel supply. If the 2016 gasoline consumption forecast is correct, the E–10 blend wall will be 13.996 billion gallons.
Now, since some gasoline is consumed without ethanol and some with higher ethanol blends, the effective E–10 blend wall is actually thought to be 9.9 percent of consumption or 13.856 billion gallons. Here’s the back figure. Subtract from this number imported ethanol, add in a few additional E85 gallons, and total 2016 consumption of conventional ethanol says Darrel Good is not roughly 500 million gallons more than this year, but rather about the same as this year - though that 500 million gallon gap will still have to be filled.
Quote Summary - The difference between the RFS requirement of 14.5 billion gallons and the projected consumption of 13.903 billion gallons (597 million gallons) would have to be met with some combination of retirement of RINs stocks, additional quantities of E–85, or blending of additional quantities of advanced biofuels.
This outcome is very different from the initial reaction that an increase in the implied conventional ethanol requirement from the preliminary to final rule making for 2016 of 500 million gallons would result in a measurable increase in feedstock - corn - consumption.
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to comply with the letter of the law as it pertains to biofuels. Todd Gleason reports this could be a boon for biodiesel made from soybeans.
EPA this week announced it would force oil companies to find more ways to use renewable fuels. This is something the oil industry has resisted saying it was too difficult to use much more than the ten percent ethanol blend already found in gasoline. This is called the blend wall and is actually less than the total number of gallons of renewable fuels congress mandated be used in 2016 when it originally wrote the law.
Since not all cars can burn greater than 10 percent ethanol in gasoline, and the amount of gasoline used in the United States is less than the renewable fuels mandate required by law, there is a renewable fuels gap left…something like a billion and half gallons. EPA hasn’t moved to force oil companies, yet, to find a new ways to fill that whole gap, but it closed it up big time and that’ll leave companies scrambling says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin.
Quote Summary - And so, the really interesting question is what will fill the gap. Will it be higher ethanol blends, E15 or E85 or biodiesel.
There’s an easy answer to this question says Irwin.
Quote Summary - At least for the next couple of years, biodiesel. Soybean oil prices since the low last August are up 25% and soybean prices are up just 3%. And meal has tanked over that same time period. One way or another it is beneficial to ag. Either I’m wrong and you get more ethanol in the form of E85 or you get more biodiesel with soybean oil and other animal fats.
The market is and has been for sometime forecasting the next winner in the biofuels industry and it appears at this point to be biodiesel made mostly from the soybean.
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Monday the United States Environmental Protection Agency put forward the rules mandating how much of each type of renewable energy can be used in the nation’s liquid fuel supply. Just a few minutes after the announcement Todd Gleason spoke with University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin about the new numbers.
Scott Irwin believes the U.S. EPA in this rule making is moving swiftly towards the congressional mandated volumes for ethanol and other renewable fuels.
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More often than not when the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard is discussed people are thinking about corn based ethanol or other feedstocks that can produce ethanol. However, when U.S. EPA finally releases the RFS mandates it may be the biodiesel industry that pays the most attention says University of Illinois Ag Economist Scott Irwin.
Irwin :36 …to find out what happens.
Quote Summary - The industry for which the RFS is really a life or death matter is biodiesel. Because if the EPA would choose to go back to the RFS statutory level mandates, at least for a few years in the short run, it would launch - likely - the biggest boom in biodiesel’s history. But, if they choose to stay on the path of the proposals from 2013 it would cut the knees out from under the industry. The biodiesel industry is waiting on the edge to find out what happens.This edge made the industry unhappy with the federal government earlier this year when it opened the door for biodiesel imported from Argentina to qualify as an advanced biofuel under the U.S. RFS mandates. Scott Irwin sees this move far more favorably the industry.
Irwin :41 …outside the United States to fill the mandates.
Quote Summary - I favor the position that EPA is likely to move the mandate levels back up near or to the statutory levels this year, or at least by 2016. This would necessitate a tremendous boom in biodiesel production. It would be more than current U.S. production capacity. So, one view of the Argentine biodiesel announcement is that it is a precursor of the statutory requirements and related documentation of enough registered biodiesel both inside and outside the United States to fill the mandates.It may be, then, that the January announcement allowing Argentine biodiesel to qualify as an advanced biofuel in the United States sets the stage for U.S. EPA to follow the letter of the law as written by congress. It is not possible to do so without additional gallons of advanced fuel from some source.
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Soon the United States Environmental Protection Agency should release its annual update to the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates. This year’s RFS is really important to the biodiesel industry.
More often than not when the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard is discussed people are thinking about corn based ethanol or other feedstocks that can produce ethanol. However, when U.S. EPA finally releases the RFS mandates - supposedly sometime this month - it may be the biodiesel industry that pays the most attention.
Quote - The industry for which the RFS is really a life or death matter is biodiesel.
That’s University of Illinois Ag Economist Scott Irwin. Biodiesel, by-the-way, is mostly produced from soybean oil.
Quote Summary - Because if the EPA would choose to go back to the RFS statutory level mandates, at least for a few years in the short run, it would launch - likely - the biggest boom in biodiesel’s history. But, if they choose to stay on the path of the proposals from 2013 it would cut the knees out from under the industry. The biodiesel industry is waiting on the edge to find out what happens.
This edge made the industry unhappy with the federal government earlier this year when it opened the door for biodiesel imported from Argentina to qualify as an advanced biofuel under the U.S. RFS mandates. Scott Irwin sees this move far more favorably the industry.
Quote Summary - I favor the position that EPA is likely to move the mandate levels back up near or to the statutory levels this year, or at least by 2016. This would necessitate a tremendous boom in biodiesel production. It would be more than current U.S. production capacity. So, one view of the Argentine biodiesel announcement is that it is a precursor of the statutory requirements and related documentation of enough registered biodiesel both inside and outside the United States to fill the mandates.
It may be, then, that the January announcement allowing Argentine biodiesel to qualify as an advanced biofuel in the United States sets the stage for U.S. EPA to follow the letter of the law as written by congress. It is not possible to do so without additional gallons of advanced fuel from some source.
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The United States congress set renewable fuels mandates a few years ago. It also gave U.S. EPA the power to adjust those mandates. EPA hasn’t done so for the 2014 calendar year, or for 2015. We’ll dispose of the political baggage and simply focus on the results of using the default statutes written into the law.