Renewable biofuels rules and threats to economic, environmental progress

In the next week, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to issue the final rule on the amount of renewable biofuels that will be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

There is an enormous amount at stake. Over the past 10 years, renewable biofuels have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of American jobs. The EPA can keep that progress moving forward or take a step backward for the environment and for the economy.

Biofuels-blending volumes are set by the Renewable Fuels Standard, which was signed into law in 2005. Each year the EPA is required to issue regulations that turn those volumes into a percentage of the fuel supply. Most of our fuel supply – as seen at the gas pump – now contains 10 percent biofuels. The latest EPA proposal, however, sets the blending below the levels dictated by the law.

Ever since the RFS was passed, companies like Novozymes have been investing in renewable fuels. We are a global biotechnology company, and we supply the enzymes that help prepare biomass for the biofuels industry. Since 2005, we have invested $500 million in technology, facilities and people to move the biofuels industry forward.

I work at our North American headquarters in Franklinton, where we employ more than 500 people. Many of my colleagues here work to support a biofuels industry that grew because of the RFS. Nationally, the renewable fuels industry supports more than 850,000 jobs, paying $46.2 billion in wages and $14.5 billion in taxes each year.

But this hasn’t been just an economic success story; the RFS has also been good for the environment. In the 10 years since it was enacted, the RFS has reduced U.S. carbon emissions by 590 million metric tons by pushing gasoline out of the fuel supply. That’s like removing 124 million cars from the road.

The RFS was designed to boost the renewable fuels industry and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It has been so successful, however, that the oil industry is afraid of losing market share and has attacked the RFS. Unfortunately, Big Oil’s strategy resulted in the recent EPA proposal that would reduce the amount of blended renewable fuels.

Novozymes invested in the United States because of the RFS. We have good jobs here in North Carolina because of the RFS.

We believed that the EPA would follow the letter of the law. Now EPA officials are pulling the rug out from under the biofuels industry.

The final rule is due on Nov. 30. Between now and then, the EPA has a chance to stand up to the oil industry, follow the law and get this policy right. The EPA can still keep our government’s promise and drive a great environmental and economic success story.

James Croonenberghs is a business development manager at Novozymes in Franklinton.