The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (“UNICA”) this week submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opposing changes to the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In the past UNICA has supported EPA’s decisions implementing the RFS and as a result of Brazil’s long-term commitment to sugarcane ethanol, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producers have supplied the majority of the U.S.’ undifferentiated advanced biofuels since EPA began implementing the RFS.

But now, UNICA urges EPA to reconsider its proposal to reduce required volumes of advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels for 2015, 2016, and possibly beyond. UNICA has three issues with EPA’s proposed significant reductions of the statutory volume requirements:

– Lowering the statutory volumes by the specified amounts is not supported by the statue nor necessary, at least in 2016 when Brazil could export higher volumes of advanced biofuels under the right market conditions. We believe EPA understates the capacity and ability of Brazilian imports to assist in implementation.
– EPA lacks proper rationale to lower the advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels volumes in the manner and amount it proposes.
– EPA’s proposed reductions do not support Congressional intent on the RFS jeopardize progress toward increased use of low-emission fuels, nor do they support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan or the recently announced bilateral climate agreement between the U.S. and Brazil.

Brazilian Investments Mean More Supply Than EPA Estimates
Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol producers are investing over $3.5 billion through 2017 in new ethanol pipelines, inland waterways, and port facilities. Sugarcane ethanol production is continuing to rise and preliminary figures for 2015-2016 estimated 7.8 billion gallons produced.

About 65 percent of Brazil’s vehicle fleet is composed of flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on E25 instead of E100, allowing hydrous ethanol production to be dehydrated and fulfill export contracts. This flexible hydrous ethanol market means export commitments would not suffer even if faced with a negative harvest season and thus, lower volumes of sugarcane ethanol.

EPA’s proposal opines Brazil cannot supply the 3-4.7 billion gallons in advanced biofuels it calculates would be required between 2015-2016 under the RFS statutory volumes, and Brazil would be unlikely to reach such figures when its highest level of U.S. exports was 680 million gallons in 2006. But in fact, UNICA forecasts under the right market conditions, Brazil can have the capacity to produce an estimated 2 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol for export to America in 2016, according to installed capacity figures from Brazil’s National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels (ANP).

EPA’s At An RFS Crossroads – Avoid The Wrong Route
Congress’ intent in establishing the RFS, EPA’s action to date, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan goals, and the U.S.-Brazil climate accord show international leadership and commitment to ensuring emissions reductions. But EPA’s Proposed Rule threatens the integrity of these commitments and UNICA urges EPA to avoid action reducing advanced biofuel imports or prioritizing less-efficient fuels over sugarcane ethanol, certified as 90 percent cleaner than conventional gasoline.
If EPA continues to assert it has authority and reasonable justification to reduce statutory volumes for biofuels, UNICA urges EPA to:

– Lower statutory volumes only to the absolute minimum. UNICA supports efforts to increase the annual volumes for these fuels and believes they should not be lowered any further in 2015, 2016 or beyond.
– Avoid reducing volume requirements for advanced biofuels or total renewable fuels below 20 percent in 2015 and 2016 in view of statutory reset provisions.
– Consider changing Equivalence Values (“EVs”) for low-lifecycle emission fuels like sugarcane ethanol to spur further growth in advanced biofuels and help obligated parties meet statutory volume requirements.

UNICA understands EPA finds itself at an RFS crossroads, but EPA needn’t rewrite the program’s goals before they can be achieved, and should not unfairly affect Brazilian exports. EPA can stimulate the market for advanced biofuels by keeping as close to the statutory volume requirements as possible and encouraging importation and production of low-lifecycle emissions renewable fuels, rather than discouraging them by lowering demand.

Leticia Phillips
Leticia Phillips

Leticia Phillips is UNICA’s Representative for North America. Ms. Phillips is an expert on Brazil-US relations and leads the Brazilian sugarcane industry’s advocacy efforts before the main stakeholders in the region, including the US Congress, Federal agencies, State legislators and business and civil society.