Skip to main content

Energy Tomorrow Blog

New Questions For the RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  epa  environmental impact  biofuels 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

More »

The RFS and Climate

analysis  renewable fuel standard  climate  ethanol  greenhouse gas emissions  natural gas benefits 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

More »

And Yet Another RFS Warning

analysis  renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  economic impacts  e15  e85  epa 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

More »

Consumers, Small Businesses and the RFS

analysis  renewable fuel standard  rfs34  e15  e85  epa  regulation 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

More »

Energizing Oklahoma

analysis  oklahoma  biofuels  e15  energy  ethanol  gasoline prices  pricewaterhousecoopers  renewable fuel standard  wood mackenzie 

Reid Porter

Reid Porter
Posted August 20, 2015

Our series highlighting the economic and jobs impact of energy in each of the 50 states continues today with Oklahoma. We started the series with Virginia on June 29 and reviewed Hawaii, Idaho and Vermont this week. All information covered in this series can be found online here, arranged on an interactive map of the United States. State-specific information across the country will be populated on this map as the series continues.

As we can see with Oklahoma, the energy impacts of the states individually combine to form energy’s national economic and jobs picture: 9.8 million jobs supported and $1.2 trillion in value added.

More »

Another Strike Against the RFS

analysis  renewable fuel standard  rfs34  biofuels  ethanol  co2 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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.

The claimed environmental benefits of the RFS have been questioned before by organizations including the Environmental Working Group and ActionAid, as well as University of Minnesota researchers.

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.”

More »

EPA – Messing With Success on Methane

analysis  methane  epa  regulation  natural gas production  ozone  renewable fuel standard  Jack Gerard 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 18, 2015

So, the EPA looked at declining methane emissions …

Down 79 percent from hydraulically fractured wells since 2005; down 38 percent from natural gas production overall from 2005 to 2013; and emissions down – while natural gas production soared ... 

... and decided new methane regulations were the thing to do anyway.

More »

Energizing Idaho

analysis  idaho  income  e15  economy and energy  ethanol  gasoline prices  renewable fuel standard  pricewaterhousecoopers  wood mackenzie 

Reid Porter

Reid Porter
Posted August 18, 2015

Our series highlighting the economic and jobs impact of energy in each of the 50 states continues today with Idaho. We started the series with Virginia on June 29 and reviewed Hawaii to begin this week. All information covered in this series can be found online here, arranged on an interactive map of the United States. State-specific information across the country will be populated on this map as the series continues.

As we can see with Idaho, the energy impacts of the states individually combine to form energy’s national economic and jobs picture: 9.8 million jobs supported and $1.2 trillion in value added.

More »

Energizing Iowa

analysis  iowa  biofuels  e15  epa  ethanol  gasoline costs  renewable fuel standard  pricewaterhousecoopers  wood mackenzie 

Reid Porter

Reid Porter
Posted August 11, 2015

Our series highlighting the economic and jobs impact of energy in each of the 50 states continues today with Iowa. We started the series with Virginia on June 29 and reviewed Montana to begin this week. All information covered in this series can be found online here, arranged on an interactive map of the United States. State-specific information across the country will be populated on this map as the series continues.

As we can see with Iowa, the energy impacts of the states individually combine to form energy’s national economic and jobs picture: 9.8 million jobs supported and $1.2 trillion in value added.

More »

NASCAR and E15: Raising the Yellow Flag

analysis  e15  renewable fuel standard  rfs34  ethanol  regulation  epa 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 7, 2015

NASCAR racing team owner Richard Childress has an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer this week in which he renders a full-throttle endorsement of E15 gasoline and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal program that requires more and more ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

Childress focuses on the specially formulated E15 (98 octane rating, compared to 90 octane in retail E15) that NASCAR uses in its customized, high-performance engines (725 horsepower, compared to 120 horsepower in a typical car engine, up to 200 horsepower in a large SUV).

Certainly, NASCAR racecars and the NASCAR-blend E15 are well-suited for each other. Less clear is why Childress is so enthusiastic about putting commercial-grade E15 in a car or truck, especially those built between 2001 and 2013 – something most car manufacturers don’t recommend.

More »