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Energy Tomorrow Blog

Repeal or Significantly Reform the RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  epa  vote4energy 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 25, 2016

API’s Vote4Energy event earlier this month unveiled a number of energy policy recommendations for the Democratic and Republican platform-writing committees. Let’s focus on one – a call for the repeal or significant reform of the flawed federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

We’ve posted on a number of issues with the RFS, which range from the negative economic impacts that could result from breaching the “blend wall” to possible risks to vehiclesfrom using higher ethanol-blend fuel E15, to the program’s failure to establish a viable domestic cellulosic biofuels industry – one of the main reasons the RFS was created in the first place. Americans are clued into the RFS’ shortcomings and are concerned – reflected in recent polling. API’s Frank Macchiarola, group director for downstream and industry operations:

“Since the inception of the ethanol mandate a decade ago, the United States has undergone an energy transformation from a nation of energy dependence and scarcity to one of energy security and abundance. It is well past time to reform outdated energy policies to reflect the energy realities of today and tomorrow. … Simply stated, this is bad public policy that creates a potential harm to the American consumer.  And, it must be fixed. The American people agree.” 

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Poll: Americans Sound Off on RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  blend wall 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 6, 2016

We can sum up new polling on Americans’ perceptions of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its potential impact on their lives in a word: concerned.

Make that very concerned – about potential damage to their vehicles, about the broad economic effects of breaching the ethanol “blend wall” and about diverting corn away from the global food supply to manufacture ethanol.

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Cellulosic Shortfalls and the Flawed RFS

cellulosic biofuels  ethanol  renewable fuel standard  rfs34 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 4, 2016

When Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) more than a decade ago, lawmakers hoped the federal fuels program would spur development of a domestic biofuels industry that would help reduce oil imports with millions and millions of gallons of home-grown ethanol – with a particular focus on increasing volumes of cellulosic biofuel made from corn stover, wood chips, miscanthus or biogas. By 2022, it was expected that 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel would be produced, but a couple of other things happened instead.

First, the U.S. energy revolution happened. Our crude oil imports fell mostly because of surging domestic oil production, not the RFS. Through safe hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, American output grew from less than 6 million barrels per day to more than 9 million barrels per day – the growth in domestic production more than accounting for the reduction in net imports.

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Hitting the Wall on the RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  blend wall  ethanol  epa  e15  e85 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 25, 2016

To understand why the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) must be repealed or significantly reformed, start at the “blend wall.”

The ethanol blend wall is where – because of the RFS’ mandates – more ethanol must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply than can be absorbed as E10 gasoline – gasoline containing up to 10 percent ethanol, which is standard across the country. Put another way, when ethanol makes up more than 10 percent of the total U.S. fuel mix, you’ve breached the blend wall.

At that point refiners have few options. They can produce E15 and E85, fuels containing higher volumes of ethanol, or they can comply with the RFS by reducing the amount of fuel supplied to the domestic market. Neither is a good choice for American consumers.

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This is the Year for RFS Action

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  e15  ethanol  consumers 

Jack Gerard

Jack Gerard
Posted March 3, 2016

The RFS was in the spotlight again last week, as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee conducted an oversight hearing on the policy. It’s a law that certainly invites scrutiny due to the significant and wide-ranging damage it causes. Besides raising the consumer price index for food by 25 percent since 2005 because ethanol production has diverted nearly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop from food to fuel, the policy is also bad for drivers and the economy.

In testimony before the committee, Lucian Pugliaresi, president of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC), shared EPRINC’s conclusion that continuing to administer the RFS as written “would increase gasoline prices from approximately 30 cents to 50 cents a gallon” and cautioned Congress to address “the risk to economic recovery” this poses. 

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Time for Action on the Broken RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  economic impacts  consumers 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

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Criticism of Ethanol Policy Grows

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  consumers  epa 

Jack Gerard

Jack Gerard
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 associationsgrocersproducers of poultry, pork and beefenvironmental non-profits and anti-hunger groups have been saying for years.

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Voters Nationwide Support Pro-Energy Policies

state of american energy  poll  energy policy  economic security  ethanol  jobs  Offshore Production  infrastructure  crude oil exports 

Jack Gerard

Jack Gerard
Posted January 7, 2016

At this year’s State of American Energy event, we highlighted the impact of energy policy on the lives and livelihoods of families and businesses in every state. The connection between policy and pocketbooks is evident after a year in which Americans saved an average $550 per driver on gasoline, due largely to strong U.S. oil and natural gas production. But to maintain the economic and security benefits of America’s 21st century energy renaissance, we’ll need to make smart policy choices that increase access to energy resources, encourage infrastructure development, rein in misguided ethanol policy and curb costly, duplicative regulations.

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Ethanol and Honey Bees 2.0

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  white house  ethanol  blend wall 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

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EPA Poised to Push Consumers Into The Blend Wall

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  e15  e85  epa  ethanol  blend wall 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

API is launching a new advertising campaign – TV, radio and online – to underscore problems with the RFS and the need for Congress to repeal or significantly reform the program. 

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

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