In biofuels case, “Who gets to solve the craziness and how is the question,” federal judge says

(Marc Morrison/BP)

After a more than decade long fight, a law requiring the blending of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply could be getting some clarity.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Monday on a lawsuit arguing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to live up to Congress’s intention when it approved the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, creating specific mandates for biofuels that increase year by year through the early 2020s.

Only the EPA has not followed the mandates laid down in the law, arguing the demand for biofuels is simply not there and following the letter of the law would needlessly create a glut of ethanol and biofuels that would weaken the overall fuel market.

“The goal is to grow the use of biofuels,” Samara Spence, the Justice Department attorney representing the EPA, said in court Monday. “If it was sitting around in a warehouse, the EPA doesn’t believe that is the goal of the statute.”

The problem, attorneys on both sides, is ambiguity within the law to how exactly the renewable fuel standard should be carried out.

“Who gets to solve the craziness and how is the question,” Circuit Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh interjected.

Biofuels producers, led by the trade group Americans for Clean Energy, are arguing the EPA has taken authority that’s was never granted when the agency applied its own analysis to the mandates spelled out by Congress to see if they were feasible – what attorney Seth Waxman termed “a crazy, circular exercise.”

“The point of the statute is to force the EPA to blend more renewable fuel than the market would otherwise consume” he said.