Former White House officials criticize RFS 

Source: Niina Heikkinen, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015

As U.S. EPA works to finalize biofuel volumes under the renewable fuel standard, two former White House advisers said a different approach would have been more effective at expanding biofuel use.

One of the people pushing for reform was James Stock, a nonresident fellow of the Center for Global Energy and Policy and a former member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2013 to 2014. He recently published a report outlining how the RFS could be changed.

According to Stock, EPA should increase ethanol volumes so that they overcome the 10 percent blend wall but in a way that includes credible steps for expansion.

However, he said an entirely different approach would be more effective.

“The first best solution is to have an appropriate price on carbon,” he said during a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “But this is the tool we have; we have to work with what we can.”

Robert McNally, a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, agreed that the RFS is flawed. He had previously worked as the top international and domestic energy adviser on the White House staff during the George W. Bush administration between 2001 and 2003 and was involved in the initial shaping of the RFS.

“I think we have to acknowledge that [the RFS] was probably a mistake and we ought to draw it back, and if we want to subsidize advanced biofuels, we should give them a production tax credit; if we want to reduce the consumption of gasoline, we should tax gasoline,” he said.

McNally added that in order to increase support for biofuels, the industry should “capture the public’s imagination” by focusing on reducing dependence on foreign oil, with less talk about the potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Both McNally and Stock spoke at an event organized by Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy and Policy. Other panelists — who included members of the biofuel and fossil fuel industries — debated topics ranging from the possible impacts of a fluctuating renewable identification number (RIN) market on gasoline prices to the viability of cellulosic and advanced biofuels.