The U.S. EPA's delayed rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard over the last few years has chilled investments in advanced biofuels, just as the industry reached commercial-scale deployment of cellulosic ethanol, a new white paper from the Biotechnology Industry Organization says.
According to the paper, the industry has experienced an estimated $13.7 billion shortfall in investment as a result of the EPA's timelines.
"Cellulosic and advanced biofuel producers have now reached commercial status, enabling them to build additional biorefineries based on proven technology with lower risk and reduced costs. But just as the industry reached this stage of commercialization, EPA rulemaking delays generated instability in the RFS program and intolerable investment uncertainty," Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section, said in a statement this week.
Cellulosic biofuels developers have felt the brunt of the RFS issues, Erickson explained, suggesting also that delays in rulemaking have also undercut the industry's ability to create new employment opportunities, resulting in the loss of more than 80,000 direct jobs.
The group has tracked the advanced biofuel industry's development and construction of biorefineries since 2009. To date, the industry has invested more than $5 billion in first-of-a-kind demonstration and commercial-scale biorefineries around the world, it said.
The group's analysis finds that as of April 2015, there are five commercial cellulosic biorefineries with a combined capacity of more than 50 million gallons within the United States and registered to meet the goals of the RFS, along with several pilot and demonstration plants.
Additional commercial biorefineries are under construction, BIO said. These advanced biorefineries employ 5,125 scientists, engineers and operations personnel. Construction of these facilities has created an additional 8,600 full-time positions over the past five years.
The Environmental Protection Agency was nine months late issuing the 2013 renewable volume obligations and is more than 17 months late in issuing the 2014 rule.
The agency said in April it would issue the proposed 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and will finalize the 2014 and 2015 RFS RVOs by Nov. 30, 2015.
EPA announced that it will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.