Energy Tomorrow Blog
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 January 6, 2016
During this week’s State of American Energy event API President and CEO Jack Gerard described the economic and energy security gains generated by the U.S. energy revolution and the policies needed to create opportunities for the oil and natural gas industry to continue them.
Today let’s focus on some of the things Gerard identified as potential impediments to American energy. These include ideological opposition to progress, anti-consumer initiatives like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), anti-market programs like the administration’s Clean Power Plan, government red tape and regulatory overreach.
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 21, 2015
The third in a series of posts on the intersection of energy development and policy and the pursuit of climate goals. Last week: The Clean Power Plan’s flawed approach in the energy sector and the role of increased natural gas use in improving air quality. Today: The impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard and federal ethanol policy.
A decade ago Congress passed legislation creating the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – requiring escalating volumes of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply – that was intended in part to help reduce crude oil imports while capitalizing the supposed environmental advantages of ethanol.
Crude oil imports indeed have been falling since 2008. But, as we’ve detailed before, virtually all of the decrease is due to rising domestic crude oil production, not the RFS. Thanks to vast domestic shale reserves and safe hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. is the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas – which by far has had the most to do with reducing U.S. net crude imports.
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.