RFS Under Fire: History, Significance and Current Issues

Biofuels & Climate Change

Unquestionably, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the most important policy affecting the U.S. biofuels industry. It supports the market for first-generation biofuels, creates the market for second-generation biofuels and it is vital to boosting the nation’s reliance on advanced biofuels from non-food-related feedstocks. This pivotal policy, however, has vocal opponents who have filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held Congressional hearings and formed stakeholder coalitions.

On Wednesday, BIO ’ s International Convention featured a panel, The Federal Renewable Fuel Standard Under Fire: History, Significance and Current Issues , that brought together leading academic researchers and industry insiders to discuss issues pertaining to the RFS and its effects. Moderator Tim Slating of the Energy Biosciences Institute at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began the discussion with an overview of the history of the RFS.

In 2005 the RFS1 was enacted under the premise that it would increase U.S. energy security by reducing reliance on foreign oil, benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhance economic prosperity in rural America.

It was soon determined that the mandates in the RFS1 were far too low to cause the desired effects however, so in 2007 the RFS2, which remains the current standard, was enacted by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and included volumetric data requirements out to 2022.

Panelists Jay P. Kesan, professor of law at University of Illinois College of Law; Regan Radtke, Research Assistant at Biofuels Law & Regulation Project at University of Illinois; and Catherine Ransom, managing director for the Glover Park Group continued the discussion with an in-depth look at current issues that affect the continued implementation of the RFS.

Issues discussed included cellulosic biofuel mandates significantly outpacing commercial production, the E10 blend wall, RIN fraud and oil and food industry groups as well as specific environmental NGOs actively seeking to repeal the RFS. Various legal and administrative options for reforming the RFS and ensuring it isn’t repealed were explored with the understanding that our national commitment to a robust renewable energy portfolio that includes a well-developed second-generation biofuels industry is at stake.

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