The 2011 ethanol tax incentive might be gone, but the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is still in place. As a result, the upcoming year promises to see a great deal of legal activity surrounding ethanol use, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Here are five stories the organization is keeping an eye on in 2012:
- First Commercial Availability of E15 Blends for Model Year 2001 and Newer Vehicles. RFA is working hard to finalize federal requirements to certify E15 blends. Once that happens, getting E15 blends into the marketplace becomes a state-by-state march, with some states such as Iowa and Illinois ready to go as soon as the federal requirements are completed. When E15 will first be legally available is still up in the air, but RFA is betting it happens in the first half of 2012.
- Free and Fair Trade of Ethanol. In addition to being the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of ethanol, the U.S. is also the lowest-cost producer. New challenges from ethanol interests in other nations have arisen, however. Whether it is the European Union’s anti-dumping investigation or the vacillating ethanol policies of Brazil, a fair resolution to trade challenges will be important to the future of domestic ethanol production.
- "You Want the Truth? You Can’t Handle the Truth!" This year promises to see a great deal of legal activity surrounding American ethanol use. The recent ruling by a federal judge that California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard is unconstitutional will be appealed. Arguments in the oil/food processing/environmental lobbying industry lawsuit against EPA’s approval of E15 have yet to be heard. This, as well as international litigation, will keep legal beagles busy.
- Wave on Wave of RFS Challenges. The conventional wisdom is that Congress will accomplish even less in 2012 than it did this past year, since it is an election year. While this might prove to be true, it will not stop those who oppose U.S. renewable fuels from seeking to dismantle the RFS. The barrage of unsubstantiated attacks on the RFS is expected to continue and even intensify as the tax credit that long served as the bogeyman for anti-ethanol interests has expired.
- Answering Cellulosic Ethanol Challengers. Construction is slated to begin on the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries, with production to follow in early 2013. To ensure these efforts are successful, Congress must renew tax provisions for cellulosic ethanol producers before they expire at year’s end. RFA and its partner organization, the Advanced Ethanol Council, will make extending these policies a top legislative priority.