RFA Urges Adoption of Nationwide LCFS Policy That Would ‘Build’ on the RFS

Source: By Jordan Godwin, OPIS • Posted: Monday, April 19, 2021

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will ask Congress to adopt a national clean fuels policy or low carbon fuels standard (LCFS) that would build upon the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the ethanol industry group said on Friday.

In a call with reporters to discuss its 2021 agenda, RFA said its top policy and regulatory priorities include restoring the integrity of the RFS, building upon the RFS with LCFS programs, modernizing U.S. transportation fuels infrastructure and rejuvenating ethanol trade.

The organization said LCFS policy should require an annual reduction in the average carbon intensity (CI) in transportation fuels, similar to programs operating in California and Oregon.

In addition, RFA said the policy must be based on “consistent and fair lifecycle analyses for all fuel options,” something ethanol proponents have traditionally criticized in California’s LCFS approach.

RFA also said it believes any national clean fuels or LCFS policy has to ensure technology and vehicle neutrality, including equitable credit for fuel and vehicle combinations that result in energy efficiency improvements, such as electric vehicles (EV) and high-octane fuels in optimized engines. This has become another frequent point of criticism of the California LCFS given that the state has modified the program in recent years to push for increases in EV adoption.

Finally, RFA said a national policy should offer transparency in lifecycle accounting and carbon credit generation.

RFA said that in 2019, corn ethanol’s carbon intensity (CI) was 40-45% below that of conventional gasoline and that the industry is moving closer to producing “ultra-low-carbon corn ethanol” that has the potential to be carbon negative. The group said it expects that over the next two to five years, ethanol will become 50-60% “cleaner” than gasoline and could within a decade achieve an 80-90% reduction through improvements in corn transport, farming, soil carbon sequestration and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

The industry group added that ethanol has accounted for 35% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions claimed under the California LCFS, exceeding renewable diesel’s 27% share, biodiesel’s 15% share and electricity’s 13% share.

RFA also pointed to a new public opinion survey conducted by Morning Consult, which polled 1,982 registered voters between March 30 and April 2. That poll found that voters intuitively support renewable fuels when talking about reducing carbon emissions and said respondents favored carbon emissions reduction approaches that would expand incentives for renewable fuels over EV mandates or a carbon tax.

RFA said the survey showed 55% expressed a favorable view of ethanol and that of those polled that expressed an opinion on ethanol, 74% had a favorable opinion.

The poll also showed that a nationwide LCFS policy has support from a majority of voters and that “EV hesitancy is real,” RFA said. The poll found that 57% of voters support an LCFS policy as an approach for cutting GHG emissions and that 74% believe EVs are too expensive for most consumers.

As part of its push to modernize transportation fuels infrastructure, RFA said it will press Congress to extend funding for higher blend infrastructure grants, adding that there also should be federal incentives for the manufacturing and sale of flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs). In addition, it will advocate for a streamlining of regulations governing E15 to allow for more rapid adoption of the higher ethanol blend.

The organization also said that the Biden administration’s planned rewrite of the fuel economy and GHG emissions rule should require automakers to ensure all new light-duty vehicles are engineered and warrantied to operate on higher octane mid-level ethanol blends.

RFA’s call for a national LCFS program marks a sharp turnaround for the ethanol industry, which was an early critic of the California program because of concerns that it created an unlevel playing field for the corn-based biofuel.

–Reporting by Jordan Godwin, jgodwin@opisnet.com;