(Bloomberg) — Biodiesel makers are complaining that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing imports from
Argentina while failing to comply with a law meant to encourage
The EPA on Tuesday cleared more imports of Argentine
biodiesel made from soybeans. U.S. biodiesel makers fear
competition from low-cost Argentine producers and complain that
the EPA cleared that application while failing to set the
required minimum production targets for 2014. It also missed a
legal deadline for the 2015 quota.
“Our plants are laying off people here, and EPA makes a
decision helping producers in Argentina. Go figure,” Anne
Steckel, director of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel
Board, said Friday on a conference call.
The EPA’s troubled management of the so-called Renewable
Fuel Standard has angered lawmakers of both political parties as
well as producers of alternatives to gasoline. The EPA has a
legal deadline of setting quotas for ethanol and other biofuels
each December. It was so late in setting the 2014 quotas, that
it gave up and said it would do so retroactively, leaving
refiners and producers to guess at what it would demand. The
agency hasn’t set a deadline the delayed 2015 quotas.
An EPA official said that its import approval is done by a
separate set of officials from those setting annual quotas.
“It’s two parallel pieces,” said Byron Bunker, director
of the compliance division of the EPA Office of Transportation
and Air Quality. Bunker said the plan submitted by the Argentine
producers provides for an outside survey to ensure that the
lands used to grow the soybeans weren’t recently cleared from
forest. That’s a standard established in the law.
“We like this approach because it has third-party
verification,” he said.
The biodiesel board sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Friday, asking her to reconsider the decision, chief
executive Joe Jobe said. If it doesn’t, the group “has a number
of legal options that we’ll consider,” he said.
Without quotas, producers say they are having a hard time
finding a market for their products. Corn-based ethanol makes up
the largest share of the biofuel market. Biodiesel, which is
often made from soybeans but also from waste cooking oil, is
also a significant market, expanding to about 1.8 billion
gallons in both 2013 and 2014.
The 2005 law was designed to encourage the use of renewable
fuel and lessen U.S. dependence on imported oil. Refiners such
as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. are required to add
a certain amount of renewable fuels to gasoline and other
products each year to meet guidelines in the law and interpreted
by the EPA.
The law sets up a way for foreign producers to certify that
production doesn’t lead to clearing of forested land. Individual
Argentine biodiesel makers had already been cleared for import
before Tuesday’s decision.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at