Decade of success under the RFS

Source: By Tom Buis, The Hill • Posted: Friday, November 20, 2015

Ten years ago, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we are not only commemorating the creation of our nation’s most successful energy policy in the past 40 years. We are also celebrating a decade of job creation, clean air, innovation, increased energy independence and consumer choice.

But even as we are celebrating these victories, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is deliberating the fate of the RFS. In its latest RFS proposal for 2014-2016, EPA unfortunately chose to side with the obligated parties who have deliberately refused to live up to their obligation to provide consumers with a lower cost, higher performing, homegrown renewable fuel option at the pump.

Everyone in Congress, as well as all parties in the renewable fuels and oil industries, knew when this legislation was debated and passed into law that the ambitious goals of the RFS could only be met by introducing higher blends into the market. Now those obligated parties, controlled primarily by Big Oil, are being rewarded for their refusal to live up to their obligation.

EPA should instead reward the hardworking men and women who embraced this promise and built ethanol plants, communities and families in towns across rural America. The RFS has been a clear success. Today, because of the RFS, there are more than 200 ethanol bio-refineries across the country and dozens of projects that will make advanced or cellulosic biofuels. The renewable fuels industry supports nearly 400,000 good American jobs that will never be outsourced and contributes more than $52 billion to our nation’s economy.

The RFS is the only policy to ever have loosened the oil industry’s stranglehold on the liquid fuels marketplace and the only policy that will help us kick our dangerous addiction to foreign oil. Since the enactment of the RFS in 2005, our dependence on foreign oil has been cut by more than half — from 60 percent to 27 percent. And, instead of sending nearly a billion dollars a day overseas, we are investing right here at home. Through 2014, the RFS helped increase farm income by 50 percent, reduced farm payments by billions of dollars and, according to Louisiana State University, saved consumers more than $100 billion a year at the fuel pump.

By using increasing amounts of biofuels under the RFS, greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be reduced by 138 million metric tons– the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road. In 2014 alone, the 13.4 billion gallons of ethanol blended into gasoline in the United States helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 38 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing roughly 8 million cars from the road.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, even when the highly controversial and disputed theory on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) is factored into the modeling. Argonne has found that without ILUC included, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to gasoline. Cellulosic and other advanced biofuels can reduce GHG emissions by 100 percent or more. The RFS provides the certainty that is needed to develop these next-generation biofuels.

Ethanol also helps fuel burn more efficiently and reduces toxic pollutants and carcinogens that are present in gasoline such as benzene, xylene and toluene and ultra-fine particulate emissions. As a fuel oxygenate, ethanol has eliminated the use of MTBE, a persistent water pollutant. The oil industry, on the other hand, continues to pollute our environment by spilling millions of gallons into our waterways and wetlands. The oil industry was responsible for 7,662 spills, leaks and blowouts in 2013 alone.

The RFS provides a much-need alternative to fossil fuels and a homegrown solution to our nation’s complex energy, economic and environmental needs. EPA should uphold the original intent of the RFS passed by Congress and provide our industry with the certainty we need to continue to succeed and keep moving our nation forward.

Buis is co-chair of Growth Energy.