A federal appeals court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency is overestimating the amount of fuel that can be produced from grasses, wood and other non-food plants in an effort to promote a fledgling biofuels industry.
There have been high hopes in Washington that the cellulosic industry would take off as farmers, food manufacturers and others blamed the skyrocketing production of corn ethanol fuel for higher food prices, according to the Associated Press. Lawmakers hoped that non-food sources such as switchgrass or corn husks could be used instead, although the industry had not yet gotten off the ground.
The 2007 law mandated that billions of gallons of annual production of corn ethanol be mixed with gasoline, eventually transitioning those annual requirements to include more of the nonfood, cellulosic materials to produce the biofuels.
As criticism of ethanol has increased, lawmakers and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have talked of the cellulosic materials as the future of biofuels.
It’s unclear how the ruling will affect the marine industry’s longstanding opposition to increasing the level of ethanol in gasoline.
“What you have in our industry is a technology that is ready to go, but has had a hard time punching through commercially because of a very challenging global financial climate,” Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council, which represents companies trying to produce cellulosic fuel, told the AP.
In response to the ruling, an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal criticizes the Environmental Protection Agency.
The article was written after Friday’s D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said the EPA had abused the law with “an unreasonable exercise of agency discretion” and vacated the 2012 cellulosic ethanol mandate.
Ethanol is one of the only products in history that Congress subsidizes and mandates at the same time and the court has ruled that the EPA is illegally giving the lobby extra benefits that Congress never intended, the WSJ piece stated.