ACE: RFS remains, improvements to be made

By Anna Austin | August 04, 2008
Web exclusive posted August 18, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. CST

Attendees to the American Coalition for Ethanol's 21st Conference and Trade Show greeted U.S. EPA's Paul Machiele with a warm welcome, likely generated from the recent announcement that the EPA has denied Texas Gov. Rick Perry's request for a 50 percent waiver of the renewable fuels standard (RFS).

Machiele, who has been with the EPA for more than 20 years, is center director for fuel programs in the EPA's Assessment & Standards Division.

In regard to the waiver denial, Machiele said the decision process was long. "It took most of our staff in Washington (D.C.), and we took it very seriously," he said. "One of the reasons we took the extra time was because of the huge amount of comments, and also that it was the first time this has ever happened since the original mandate was enforced."

Machiele outlined what the original RFS required and what changes were made with the implementation of the new RFS policy. "We've experienced a lot of growing pains," he said. With the updated mandate, the U.S. ethanol consumption requirement was raised to 9 billion gallons in 2008; the original policy required 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.

The rule development process in the recent mandate was similar to the original, Machiele said. "We engaged early and often with stakeholders through the process," he added. "The main change was the volume, but there were many new obligations and definitions." This included the blending of diesel fuel, gasoline, non-road fuels and highway fuels.

Conventional biofuels, advanced biofuels, biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuel categories are now all required to meet the new greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction thresholds. "The most unique thing about this rule is the renewable fuels must now be produced from biomass," Machiel said.

Machiele said the following suggestions should be put in place:

  • Modeling framework that captures both domestic and international agriculture sector changes and their GHG impacts.

  • Working with experts to improve understanding of agriculture nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Developing country-specific GHG emissions factors associated with land use change and agriculture practices.

In three years, the EPA will report to Congress the impacts that the RFS has had to date, and will continue to do so every third year. "We will also be doing studies on how these biofuels affect our air quality as a result of these different blend level requirements," Machiele said.

He added that the EPA will continue discussions with a number of worldwide industry groups to make improvements.

The 21st annual ACE conference, Fueling Revolution, was held Aug. 12-14 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.