The farmer leaders of the American Soybean Association (ASA) voiced their exasperation, confusion and anger at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following an announcement that the EPA will approve an application allowing Argentine biodiesel easier access to the U.S. market.
"Today's decision issued by EPA on Argentinian biodiesel shows a lack of coordination and alarming tone-deafness regarding the purposes of the Renewable Fuels Standard," said ASA President and Brownfield, Texas, farmer Wade Cowan.
"EPA has put the interests of our foreign competitors above those of soybean farmers here in the U.S. At this point, we can only scratch our heads and wonder what EPA's priorities are when it comes to the domestic renewable fuels industry."
EPA's announcement followed a December notice that the agency would postpone setting biofuels volume requirements for 2014 until early in 2015. Speaking at the National Biodiesel Board Conference last week, former Senator Byron Dorgan said EPA's inability or unwillingness to set the 2014 RFS volume requirements demonstrated that there was "no minimum threshold for embarrassment" at EPA.
Cowan added, "Do they recognize that they have not set volume requirements for 2014-which has already passed-or for 2015, which we're already a month into? Do they realize that every link in the biodiesel supply chain-from soybean farmers to gas station owners-is in limbo, awaiting their long-delinquent action on these decisions? Do they recall that one of the purposes of this program is to increase domestic energy independence? It sure seems that the answer to each of these questions is a resounding 'no'."
ASA wrote to EPA in March 2014 with questions and a request that the Argentine application be subject to a formal public comment period, given the potential ramifications and the numerous factors involved and impacts that go beyond EPA's domain. EPA did not respond to ASA's letter, and no public comment period was provided before its announcement. ASA is not aware of any requirement or deadline for EPA to act on the Argentine application.
"President Obama should not be pleased with the job EPA is doing on renewable fuels. The agency's manner of haphazard decision-making, which is so sorely lacking in direction, belies the Obama Administration's support for the U.S. biofuels industry," Cowan said.
"Until the past year, the White House could rightly share the credit for the benefits that this industry has provided to the rural economy, energy security, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But these latest actions and inactions from EPA overshadow that progress and can only be seen as an embarrassment."