Posted February 23, 2016
When Congress and the president acted late last year to end the decades-old ban on domestic crude oil exports, Washington showed it could generate the consensus to update energy policy so it matches America’s new energy reality, a reality of abundance created by surging domestic oil production. The same kind of change is needed on the broken Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
We saw how the crude oil exports ban buckled under the weight of economic research and reason, both of which argued that allowing U.S. oil to reach global markets would be good for America and American consumers. In the case of the RFS, there’s a compelling opportunity to protect U.S. consumers from potential harm wrought by a bad public policy.
Step No. 1 is a scheduled hearing this week on the RFS by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Witnesses include EPA and U.S. Energy Information Administration officials. Frank Macchiarola, API group director of downstream and industry operations, discussed the stakes in the RFS debate during a conference call with reporters. The main point: The RFS is mismatched for the new era of U.S. energy abundance.
Posted January 27, 2016
If the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were a candidate in this election year, its track record would invite landslide defeat.
Editorial boards of major newspapers are now echoing what a diverse coalition of restaurant associations, grocers, producers of poultry, pork and beef, environmental non-profits and anti-hunger groups have been saying for years.
Posted December 28, 2015
The White House has honey bees – an estimated 70,000 of them that call a hive near the South Lawn home. Yet, nationwide bees are struggling. Researchers have warned of declining numbers of bees and other “pollinators” – to the point that last year the White House set up a task force to develop a bee strategy to help reverse the trend. From the White House blog:
Increasing the quantity and quality of habitat for pollinators is a major part of this effort—with actions ranging from the construction of pollinator gardens at Federal buildings to the restoration of millions of acres of Federally managed lands and similar actions on private lands. To support these habitat-focused efforts, USDA and the Department of Interior are today issuing a set of Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands, providing practical guidance for planners and managers with land stewardship responsibilities.
We acknowledged the bee situation in a post nearly a year ago, noting that the large-scale conversion of grasslands to grow crops for a number of uses was crowding out bees, butterflies and others – including increasing acreage being devoted to ethanol production. Now a new, comprehensive study by University of Vermont researchers underscores the point – that U.S. wild bees are disappearing in many of the country’s most important farmlands and that increased demand for corn to use in biofuel production is a significant part of the problem.
Posted November 30, 2015
In finalizing ethanol volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the EPA is basically testing the limits of the ethanol “blend wall” and the potential impacts of breaching it. Unfortunately, the guinea pigs in the experiment are U.S. consumers – their wallets, their vehicles.
That’s what we draw from EPA’s requirements for levels of corn ethanol and other renewable fuels that must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. EPA officially set requirements for 2014 (two years late), 2015 (a year late) and 2016. Requirements for 2016 are the most significant – 18.11 billion gallons, which is lower than what Congress originally required when it created the RFS, but higher than what EPA proposed in May (17.4 billion gallons).
Posted November 13, 2015
Ethanol producers want Secretary of State John Kerry to trumpet the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at the big Paris climate conference later this month. Big Ethanol says the U.S. should highlight the RFS in Paris, not hide it – referring to the fact the RFS is missing from the Obama administration’s “intended nationally determined contribution” document that outlines what the U.S. would do under the next international climate agreement.
Maybe the reason for the omission is the number of studies showing that climate and environment are worse off because of the RFS.
Posted October 28, 2015
Next month EPA is scheduled to finalize 2014, 2015 and 2016 ethanol-use requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – and where EPA sets the volume standards could have big impacts on consumers and our economy.
We’ve been talking about flaws in the RFS for some time, and the chorus of voices has grown because requiring increasing volumes of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply could affect vehicle owners, consumers paying for fuel and food, the environment and the global food supply.
Posted October 16, 2015
It’s been a tough week for corn ethanol producers and supporters of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
First, a new University of Tennessee report finds that the RFS and its ethanol mandates fall short on a number of environmental fronts, and that without mandated ethanol use the corn ethanol industry couldn’t survive commercially. The report:
Looking back over the last 10 years, the RFS and its resulting promotion of corn ethanol as a leading oxygenate supplement to conventional transportation fuels did not meet intended environmental goals. Corn ethanol’s environmental record has failed to meet expectations across a number of metrics that include air pollutants, water contamination, and soil erosion. Corn ethanol has resulted in a number of less favorable environmental outcomes when compared to a scenario in which the traditional transportation fuel market had been left unchanged.
Posted September 9, 2015
NERA Economic Consulting has a new study warning of potentially dire economic impacts from continued implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as written into law by Congress.
NERA set up its study that way for good reasons: Despite abundant evidence that RFS mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use in the nation’s fuel supply are detached from reality, and although it’s pretty clear EPA has mismanaged the RFS to the detriment of those obligated to meet its mandates – the ethanol industry insists that the program continue as statutorily set out in 2007.
That, according to NERA, is a roadmap to potential economic calamity and consumer pain.
Posted September 2, 2015
Finalized federal requirements for ethanol use in 2014, 2015 and 2016 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are scheduled to come out later this year. As EPA completes work on them, the interests of American consumers should be put ahead of special ethanol interests. At the same time, policymakers should recognize that the RFS is broken, out of date and should be repealed.
Ethanol supporters argue that RFS mandates can be met by pushing out more E15 and E85 fuel, which contain higher levels of ethanol than E10 gasoline that’s standard across the country. But this would disregard potential risks to consumers and small businesses. A number of organizations argue that point in official comments to EPA on the RFS, which can be found here.
Posted August 19, 2015
There’s more scholarly research challenging the oft-heard claim that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its requirements for increasing use of biofuels is good for the environment and climate.
Now a paper published this month by University of Michigan Energy Institute researchers argues that the government-sponsored model used to calculate biofuels’ carbon footprint is flawed. The paper says a more accurate accounting method shows that corn ethanol doesn’t have an edge over petroleum gasoline when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions.
Research by the institute’s John DeCicco and Rashmi Krishnan (sponsored by API) found that assumed biofuel carbon neutrality that’s built into the government-sponsored model “does not hold up for real-world biofuel production.”