The governors of five oil states—Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah and Louisiana—sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency late Wednesday asking the agency to waive renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil industry. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, offers the following response:
“Apparently toilet paper isn’t the only thing in short supply in oil states these days—clearly, these governors are experiencing an acute shortage of facts and reality too. It’s clear they know absolutely nothing about how the Renewable Fuel Standard actually works. They outrageously claim that a waiver is needed because of ‘depressed demand for transportation fuel.’ But because EPA translates the RFS into a percentage each year, the renewable fuel blending requirements already adjust in tandem with changes in gasoline and diesel consumption. So, if COVID-19 causes 2020 gasoline and diesel demand to drop 15 percent, for example, the renewable fuel blending requirements drops by the exact same amount.
“In any event, the EPA has no authority to grant relief when the RFS itself is not the cause of the ‘severe economic harm,’ a fact that has been reconfirmed by EPA multiple times in the past when it denied similar nonsensical waiver requests. The governors themselves acknowledge the problems facing refiners today are driven by COVID-19 and cratering oil prices, not the RFS. These same factors are impacting the ethanol industry as well, and to an even greater extent: Nearly half of the nation’s ethanol production capacity has been idled as a result of falling gasoline demand. A general waiver at this point would only serve to close more ethanol plants and kill more jobs across rural America.
“The governors also apparently have forgotten about the record supply of low-cost banked compliance credits (RINs) available to refiners. Today, refiners can purchase two or three RIN credits—each representing a gallon of renewable fuel—for the same price as one physical gallon of ethanol. COVID-19 is exactly the sort of market disruption that EPA had in mind when it developed the RIN credit trading market mechanism.
“The bottom line is, this letter comes nowhere close to satisfying the well-defined statutory criteria and requirements established for requesting a waiver. It can’t even be called a petition. EPA should reject it out of hand and return to focusing on efforts that will actually help Americans get through this challenging period. These governors may still be practicing social distancing, but they should not be distancing themselves from the facts as well.”