Biofuel supporters cheered last week as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) "back on track" by raising renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels for 2017.

The agency restored the target for conventional biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, to 15 billion gallons, which is the level called for by Congress. The EPA in May had proposed a 14.8-billion-gallon target for corn ethanol, drawing the ire of biofuel backers and farm-state lawmakers.

"Today marked the last chance for the Obama administration to get the RFS back on track," said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. "In a dramatic return to their roots, they chose to uphold the law and, in doing so, boosted fuel competition, consumer choice and rural America."

The EPA finalized the total renewable fuel usage requirements at 19.28 billion gallons in 2017, up from its proposal of 18.8 billion gallons. The total includes 4.28 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, including biomass-based diesel and cellulosic ethanol, a nearly 20 percent increase over 2016 levels. The rule requires a minimum of 2 billion gallons of biomass-based biodiesel in 2017 and 2.1 billion gallons in 2018.

Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said his organization was especially encouraged by the strong increase in the Advanced Biofuels category, "an area where biodiesel can grow and compete."

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said the EPA’s move will be good for the state. "As the leading producer of both ethanol and biodiesel in the United States, this positively impacts Iowa’s ec­­onomy and environment."