Here’s an update on recent news items and other public policy developments relating to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and the efforts to produce commercial quantities of cellulosic biofuels which qualify to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) under the RFS.
EPA proposes adding new renewable fuel pathways under the RFS. EPA has announced that on May 20, Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe approved a package of proposed regulatory amendments under the RFS. Key elements of the proposed rules include new approved pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas; renewable compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced from landfill biogas; and butanol produced in a methods that meet the 50% GHG emission reduction standard. A number of other revisions to the rules are being proposed as well. The proposal will be open to public comment for 30 days, beginning with its formal publication in the Federal Register.
EPA releases RIN figures for March and April 2013. In its most recent monthly report, EPA has reported the Renewable Identification Numbers that have been generated under the RFS through April 2013. Most noteworthy was the news that there were 4,901 gallons of cellulosic diesel, corresponding to 8,332 RINs of the D7 category, generated during March, representing the year’s first cellulosic RINs. March also saw over 1 billion D6 renewable fuel RINs (most of which were attributed to cornstarch ethanol) and over 47 million advanced biofuel D5 RINs, most of which were sugarcane ethanol. There were no cellulosic RINs generated in April, but D6 RINs up slightly from March, also at just above 1 billion. The number of D5 RINs generated was down from March to about 28 million in April.
More legislation proposed to revise Renewable Fuel Standard. Two new proposed bills to amend the RFS have been introduced to Congress in the weeks since I posted a summary of such bills in my Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels blog. Representative Pete Olson (R-Texas), with several cosponsors including Jim Costa (D-Calif.), has introduced a bill, the “Domestic Alternative Fuels Act of 2013” (H.R. 1959) that would allow fuels produced from domestic natural gas to qualify as the equivalent of renewable fuels under the RFS. Proponents of the bill cited the alleged impact of corn ethanol on food prices, while opponents criticize the bill because it would defeat one of the intents of the RFS, which was to move the country away from fossil fuel derived energy sources.
In a separate action, Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) have introduced a bill called the Foreign Fuels Reduction Act, S.977, that is meant to address the current situation under the RFS which favors the importation of Brazilian cane-derived ethanol to meet the mandated levels for “advanced biofuels”. By making simple revisions to one key sentence in the RFS, this bill would require that any reduction made to the cellulosic biofuel mandates also results in a pro rata reduction of the mandates for total renewable fuel and advanced biofuels, which in the words of the sponsors, would “ensure that the RFS is met only by domestically sourced biofuels”.
Please see my previous post on my Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels blog for information on other bills pending in Congress relating to the RFS and other biofuels policies.
House committee issues second and third white papers on the RFS. On April 18, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the second of its series of white papers raising issues relating to the RFS. This paper, available here, discusses “agricultural sector issues” and poses nine questions on food-vs.-fuel topics on which stakeholder comment is requested by April 29. The Committee issued the third white paper on May 9, which examines greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with the RFS and poses a number of questions for discussion. Stakeholder responses were requested by May 24. The Committee now plans a total of five such white papers – the first paper, issued in March, discussed topics relating to E15 and the blend wall.
Previous Biofuel Policy Watch posts on RFS policy:
- April 18, 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard News
- March 25, 2013: Renewable Fuel Standard News
- February 28, 2013: Renewable Fuel Standard News
- February 12, 2013: Renewable Fuel Standard News
- February 1, 2013: EPA’s 2013 Proposed Rules under the RFS
- January 25, 2013: Appeals Court Ruling on Cellulosic Volume Mandate
- January 15, 2013: RFS Issues and Controversies Part 2
- January 14, 2013: RFS Issues and Controversies Part 1
D. Glass Associates, Inc. is a consulting company specializing in government and regulatory support for renewable fuels and industrial biotechnology. David Glass, Ph.D. is a veteran of over thirty years in the biotechnology industry, with expertise in industrial biotechnology regulatory affairs, U.S. and international renewable fuels regulation, patents, technology licensing, and market and technology assessments. Dr. Glass also serves as director of regulatory affairs for Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. More information on D. Glass Associates’ government and regulatory consulting capabilities, and copies of some of Dr. Glass’s prior presentations on biofuels and biotechnology regulation, are available at www.slideshare.net/djglass99 and at www.dglassassociates.com. The views expressed in this blog are those of Dr. Glass and D. Glass Associates and do not represent the views of Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. or any other organization with which Dr. Glass is affiliated. Please visit our other blog, Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels.