Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Friday, April 13, 2012

Advancing Pathways for Advanced Feedstocks

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Erin Voegele April 11, 2012

EPA evaluates energy cane, giant reed and napiergrass

The approval of new feedstock pathways under the renewable fuels standard (RFS2) is critical to the developing cellulosic ethanol industry. The addition of new pathways expands the library of biomass crops available for conversion into RFS2 compliant biofuels and using approved feedstocks is the only way producers can generate renewable identification numbers (RINs) for the resulting fuel. The approval of specific feedstock pathways is also critical to financing a project, since investors may be less willing to support a project that relies on an unapproved feedstock.

On Jan. 5, the U.S. EPA issued a direct final rule regarding pathways for three grassy biomass crops—energy cane, giant reed and napiergrass. The agency also published a parallel proposed rule for the pathways on the same day. According to the EPA, it published the direct final rule without a prior proposed rule because it viewed the addition of these new RFS2 pathways as noncontroversial. The EPA explained the new pathway determinations did not require new agricultural sector modeling and involved relatively straightforward analyses that largely relied on work that had already been completed as part of the RFS2 final rulemaking. In the direct final rule, the EPA also noted that the pathways would become effective March 5 unless the agency received adverse comments or a hearing request by Feb. 6. The EPA did receive such comments, and on March 5 published a notice in the Federal Register officially withdrawing the direct final rule.

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