Effort to expand RFS to electric cars falters

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, September 7, 2018

A proposal that could extend the federal renewable fuel standard to electric vehicles has stalled at EPA.

The agency hasn’t acted on applications that would allow biogas and biomass used for electricity to power the vehicles to qualify for the RFS, an industry group said.

“It’s hard to know exactly what’s holding it up,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council, which supports expanding the RFS into power generated from livestock manure, landfill waste and other sources.

At issue are the “pathways” EPA approves for the renewable identification numbers, or RINs, that are the currency of the renewable fuel law. Companies buy and sell RINs to demonstrate compliance with the law.

Advocates for biogas and biomass say their industry needs the boost that the RFS could help provide. EPA approved the electric pathway in 2014, but questions about policy issues have held up companies’ applications to register for so-called e-RINs, Serfass told E&E News.

Among other questions, EPA has been weighing how the biogas-derived electricity is used for the vehicle, such as for charging batteries or for driving the wheels, and how to avoid “double-counting” RINs.

The American Biogas Council is among 111 organizations that sent a letter to EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler today, urging quicker action.

“We have been informed that, until the agency resolves a number of policy issues regarding how the RFS ‘electric pathway’ program will function, these applications will not be acted upon,” they wrote. “This has completely blocked participation in the RFS electric pathway by any existing or future applicants.”

Applications related to alternative fuels under the RFS face a number of bureaucratic hurdles at EPA. The agency recently said it’s dealing with “complicated and resource-intensive” applications on cellulosic ethanol, for instance. EPA received more than 1,700 requests for fuels registration last year and is on a similar pace this year, a spokesman said (Greenwire, Aug. 22).

Allowing electricity generated from biogas and biomass to qualify for RINs carries environmental benefits, as well, Serfass said, giving farmers an incentive to install manure digesters. Most farms that have digesters generate electricity, he said.

“They should be able to participate in this,” Serfass said.

The letter echoes pleas from some lawmakers. In January, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and other House members wrote to then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging approval of the applications.