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Energy Tomorrow Blog

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To understand why the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) must be repealed or significantly reformed, start at the “blend wall.”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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Natural Gas and Market-Driven Emissions Progress

natural gas benefits  co2 emissions  emission reductions  us energy security  economic benefits  renewable energy 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 4, 2016

Just recently saw this article on National Geographic.com, suggesting the United States made a significant shift in its energy economy in 2015:

Consider what happened last year alone. The amount of electricity from coal-fired power plants hit a record low while that from natural gas generators hit a record high. Also, renewable energy added the most new power to the electric grid, and annual carbon emissions reached a 20-year low.

First, a reminder that new power capacity added to the grid doesn’t translate directly to new power. Below, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that in terms of electricity generation change (from 2014 to 2015) at utility-scale facilities and including distributed solar, natural gas led in net generation:  

That’s not knocking renewables, just an illustration of today’s energy reality and a reminder of the oft-overlooked energy, economic and climate benefits accruing to the United States from increasing natural gas use.

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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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A Look at Our Energy Tomorrow

exxonmobil  energy  natural gas  renewable fuel  hydraulic fracturing  emissions  climate change 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 25, 2016

A couple of the big-picture projections in ExxonMobil’s annual global energy outlook: The world’s energy needs will grow 25 percent between now until 2040, with oil, natural gas and coal continuing to meet 80 percent of that demand.

Now, read what the energy company says about the future of natural gas:

The biggest expected growth will be in natural gas, which provides a practical energy solution for many applications while also providing a significant cost advantage versus other options to help reduce climate change risks.

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Roadblocks to Progress

state of american energy  oil and natural gas development  economic growth  renewable fuel standard  regulation  infrastructure 

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 6, 2016

State of American Energy Report 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.

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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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Consumers Need More Protection From RFS

renewable fuel standard  rfs34  epa  blend wall  consumers  e15  e85  ghg emissions  climate 

Mark Green

Mark Green
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).

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