OREANDA-NEWS. August 02, 2017. Biofuel supporters urged federal regulators not to adopt the fuel industry's dour view of renewable blending mandates during a public hearing today on the proposed requirements.

Blending mandates reduced to match lower Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advanced biofuel expectations could ensure those industries never reach their potential, renewable fuel proponents warned.

Refiners and some marketers and union employees countered that severe economic harm would come from an agency failure to make deeper cuts.

EPA in July proposed cutting overall blending requirements for 2018 by, for the first time, not compensating for one struggling feedstock by using another. The agency based the cuts on a new method for estimating less cellulosic ethanol production than the EPA included in mandates for this year.

"I am not sure that [administrator] Scott Pruitt appreciates the potential for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels that we in the industry do, and the president likely does as well," Renewable Fuels Association chief executive Bob Dinneen said on the sidelines of the hearing. "But he will get to know all about it, I am sure."

The agency must each year sets volumes of renewable fuels that refiners, importers and other companies must ensure enter the US fuel supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA sets an overall mandate bundled with specific requirements for advanced biofuels, biodiesel and cellulosic, or non-food, ethanol.

Obligated parties, including refiners and importers, must prove those volumes blend into the domestic fuel supply. Companies acquire renewable identification numbers (RINs) to submit to EPA by blending finished fuels or purchasing the markers from companies who do.

Cellulosic production has consistently fallen short of volumes Congress targeted a decade ago. EPA in previous years offset some of the shortfall with greater requirements for other advanced biofuels.

Producers of that fuel from corn fiber, renewable gas and other feedstocks warned EPA that the reduction would impair investment and future growth.

"Given that advanced biofuels can be achieved through more pathways than when the RFS began ... we should be pushing the boundaries of our abilities and setting volumes higher," North Dakota governor Pete Ricketts said.

The biodiesel industry pushed EPA to revise minimum blending requirements for their fuel higher. The agency kept that mandate flat, at 2.1bn USG, through 2019.

"EPA's proposal does not acknowledge the ability of the domestic industry to step up to the plate when given proper signals by EPA," National Biodiesel Board chief operating officer Doug Whitehead said.

EPA noted in its proposed rule the high volumes of biodiesel imports used to satisfy previous years' requirements, questioning the role of imports in a program designed in part to spur domestic energy independence.

The large import volumes have concerned US biofuel producers, too. The National Biodiesel Board earlier this year filed a trade complaint against Argentinian and Indonesian biodiesel flows that the US Department of Commerce continues to investigate.