RFS2 could require biofuel producers to track feedstock

By Erin Voegele | August 10, 2009
The U.S. EPA's proposed rule for the second stage of the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) states that renewable identification numbers can only be generated for renewable fuel that is produced from feedstock which meets the definition of renewable biomass. This limits the participation of feedstocks in the program according to the management practices of the land they are produced on. In the case of crops and crop residues, these feedstocks must be harvested from agricultural lands cleared and cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2009. In addition, the land used to produce them must be actively managed or fallow, and non-forested.

To ensure compliance with this aspect of the proposed rule, the EPA is proposing to require renewable fuel producers to provide a demonstration of the type of land used to produce the feedstocks they use at their facilities. One way this could be accomplished would be to require renewable fuel producers to obtain documentation from their feedstock suppliers and include that information in production reports submitted to the EPA. According to the EPA, the agency expects this type of requirement would result in renewable fuel producers amending their contracts and altering their supply chain interactions to ensure they receive documented assurance and proof of their feedstock's origin.

In a comment submitted to the EPA regarding the RFS2 rulemaking, Adam Dunlop, Blue Flint Ethanol LLC's director of health, safety and environment, states that his company is very concerned about the definition of renewable biomass and the land use restrictions provided in the proposed rule. "The rule appears to place an impossible burden of tracking feedstocks on renewable fuel producers," said Dunlop in the comment. "Furthermore, we believe that this burden serves little purpose as the multiple use nature of feedstocks for renewable fuel may allow feedstock producers to circumvent the intent of the ruleThe proposed recordkeeping requirements for production facilities and producers to comply with the existing land' requirements appear to be applying a significantly larger financial and regulatory burden than necessary."

In the proposed rule, the EPA also describes a variety of alternatives that could be used to comply with this aspect of the RFS2. One alternative would be to establish a chain-of-custody tracking system that could ensure land use data followed the feedstock throughout the supply chain. Alternatively, the EPA could require renewable fuel producers to set up and administer a quality assurance program. Similarly, the agency would require that renewable fuel producers and renewable fuel feedstock producers and suppliers develop an industry-wide quality assurance program modeled after the Reformulated Gasoline Survey Association. An additional option includes using existing satellite and aerial imagery to develop a mapping Web site that could assist regulated parties in identifying where their feedstocks are produced.