Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The Trump administration is gearing up to release by Thursday what is likely to be the biggest environmental regulation issued all year, driven by a 12-year-old law with a mixed record of success.

Driving the news: The Environmental Protection Agency faces a Nov. 30 deadline to issue quotas for how much biofuels refineries must blend into the gasoline supply under a federal mandate called the renewable fuel standard. Refineries are meeting the mandate now mostly by blending corn-based ethanol, though Congress had far greater ambitions for non-corn biofuels when it first passed the law, as the chart shows.

Expand chart
Data: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Environmental Protection Agency; Note: Advanced biofuel includes biodiesel and cellulosic biofuel. Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

What to watch: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will formalize an informal commitment he made to a group of corn-state lawmakers to drop a series of changes he was considering that would have made it easier for refineries to comply. The regulation is likely to keep proposed deep cuts to the quota for cellulosic biofuels not made from corn, so expect criticism from the biofuel industry on that point.

Gritty details: Because of its political relevance, corn ethanol gets all the attention, but there's a lot more to the mandate. The policy is kind of like a Russian doll: smaller categories of different types of biofuels inside an overall mandate for biofuels.

The largest type by far is corn ethanol — often called "conventional" biofuels — followed by advanced biofuels, which means biofuels made from material other than corn. This includes biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels.

The back story: The biofuels mandate, first passed by Congress in 2005 and expanded two years later in another law, is considered by some experts to be the single biggest piece of energy policy to come out of Washington since the Clinton administration.

Congress passed it under a now outdated mindset before America's oil boom of the last decade: The U.S., heavily dependent upon Middle Eastern oil, must wean itself from oil. The laws also promised economic growth to the nation's corn belt, and cleaner fuel for our cars in the name of climate change.

It had something for everyone, and the laws passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. The mandate also has attributes that in hindsight have proven problematic, such as setting biofuels quotas by volume, not as percentage of total gasoline supply.

"Outside the ethanol industry, the mandate is viewed as an authentic policy error," said Bob McNally, president of the Rapidan Energy Group and former adviser to then-President George W. Bush. He left the administration before Bush signed into law the two bills that created the mandate.

Corn ethanol has boomed under the mandate, and was also helped by subsidies that expired in 2011. That has helped solidify an already-powerful group of farm-state lawmakers and lobbying interests. Gasoline blended with ethanol now makes up about 10% of the nation's gasoline supply.

Other types of biofuels, especially cellulosic, have not developed nearly to the extent Congress had intended when it set quota levels in the statute. This has happened due to a number of factors, including the unanticipated oil boom that has lowered gasoline prices and created an opening for oil companies to push for total repeal of the mandate.

The 2008 economic crisis also hampered advanced biofuel companies' ability to raise money. Both of these factors have made federal policy for advanced biofuels much more uncertain, compelling some advanced biofuel companies to adapt their business models to make things totally unrelated to fuel — like cooking oil and makeup, which can fetch higher prices.

Go deeper

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.

Biden to sign voting rights order to mark "Bloody Sunday" anniversary

President Biden will sign an executive order today, on the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," meant to promote voting rights, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: The executive order comes as Democrats face an uphill battle to pass a sweeping election bill meant, in part, to combat a growing number of proposals introduced by Republicans at the state level that would restrict voter access.