Implement RFS As Congress Intended

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) is the most successful energy policy our nation has seen in the last 40 years This column appears in the May issue of EPM.
By Tom Buis | April 11, 2016

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) is the most successful energy policy our nation has seen in the last 40 years. It has created almost 400,000 jobs and contributed nearly $44 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

The RFS works, plain and simple.

We are expecting the U.S. EPA to release its renewable volume obligation (RVO) proposal for 2017 by early June. In light of the last RVO proposals for 2014, 2015 and 2016, it is important that we weigh in and voice our support for the RVO to be set at statutory levels as Congress initially intended.

As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in her address at Growth Energy’s Advocacy Conference in 2015, “The United States is the world’s largest producer and consumer of biofuels…So EPA’s proposal has to continue to build on that success. And to spur ambitious, yet achievable growth…EPA is working hard to make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard program is actually moving towards the levels that Congress intended. I want you to know that that is my job. I understand that.”

We made progress with the last RVO rule by piercing the blend wall, but still fell short of statutory levels. It is important that we share the positive story of ethanol and what the RFS can do to add more chapters to that story. Industry insiders know firsthand the benefits of a strong RFS, but it is incumbent upon us to not only defend the policy, but also proactively show the public why a strong RFS is good for our entire nation.

To support the RFS, the RVO must be set at statutory levels to further break down the blend wall and facilitate a more widespread transition toward E15, creating up to an additional 136,000 jobs. Every additional drop of ethanol in our tanks means there are fewer harmful chemical emissions in the air we breathe, and fewer pollutants in our water supply. Americans now are more aware than ever that many of the resources we take for granted on this planet are finite, and we must do all we can to preserve and protect them.

First-generation ethanol can reduce greenhouse gases by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline. Furthermore, ethanol production is becoming more efficient by the year, using less water, land and energy to make fuel. At the same time, advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol continue to develop and are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent or more. Just this year, a USDA report showed that ethanol is more energy efficient to produce than conventional gasoline. For example, every Btu put into creating ethanol yields a return of 2.3 Btu nationally, and a 4:1 return in parts of the Midwest. Setting the RVO at statutory levels and enforcing the RFS as Congress intended is a win for the environment, for farmers and the American people. It is time for a 21st-century fuel for 21st-century vehicles.

The ethanol industry is strong, and it is important to this country. The RFS is something we must continue to defend so we can reach our goals of seeing the RVO set at statutory levels.

Big Oil has had its time in the sun, but after 103 years of government subsidies, it is time for it to stand on its own, just as the biofuels industry has done. The American people deserve a choice of high performance, low cost, cleaner burning fuels at the pump. They deserve to have our energy security strengthened and our dependence on foreign oil ended. Most of all, they deserve an earth-friendly fuel that helps improve our environment now and for future generations to come.

Author: Tom Buis
Co-chairman, Growth Energy