Industry group challenges cellulosic biofuel quota

The American Petroleum Institute filed a legal challenge to a U.S. cellulosic biofuel mandate on Monday, alleging a “complete commercial supply” doesn’t exist for fuel suppliers to meet the program’s minimum quota for 2012.

The Washington-based lobbying group filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, saying the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program’s requirements are not attainable at this moment.

The group said the program’s requirement that fuel suppliers put 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels into transportation fuels sold in the U.S. in 2012 isn’t achievable because the fuels aren’t commercially available yet in the amounts needed, API said.

“EPA’s standard is divorced from reality and forces refiners to purchase credits for cellulosic fuels that do not exist,” Bob Greco, API director of downstream and industry operations, said in an emailed statement. “EPA’s unrealistic mandate is effectively a tax on manufacturers of gasoline that could ultimately burden consumers.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard program sets a broad target for how much renewable fuels must be sold in the U.S. each year, as well as separate sub-targets for specific types such as cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel and “advanced” biofuels.

In the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Congress expanded the program beyond a broad renewable-fuel target to include those sub-categories and set targets for the EPA to reach.

But as The New York Times reported in January, fuel suppliers are bracing for millions in penalties this year as factories and workshops that provide renewable fuels to them didn’t succeed in meeting Congress’ directive on the cellulosic type.

The fuel standard’s supporters say the overall program will help cut greenhouse-gas emissions that are warming the Earth.

In an emailed statement, the EPA declined to comment on the merits of API’s complaint, only saying: “We will review and respond to the suit appropriately.”

API Petition for Review of RFS

This story was last updated at 3:11 p.m.