In this space last week, we examined the role that agriculture is playing in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), or strategies, submitted by dozens of nations seeking to meet the emissions-reduction goals called for in the Paris climate agreement reached last December. We also cited the development and use of biofuels promoted by those countries as a means to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We took serious issue with the Obama administration’s failure to fully endorse and promote biofuels as a tool in U.S. efforts to combat climate change.
However, we mischaracterized the administration’s INDC proposal for meeting the Paris-based emission reduction goals by saying it failed to include biofuel development as a tool in the fight against climate change.
USDA’s Climate Change Program Office tells us that the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which sets biofuel-blending levels in the nation’s transportation fuel supply, was included as a “Major Federal Action on Mitigation” and one of the “Policies Driving Substantial Progress toward Our Targets” in a report submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which facilitates the implementation of the Paris agreement.
As detailed by the report, the RFS is expected by 2020 to achieve a reduction of 138.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (for perspective, USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program is expected to get 39.8 million metric tons in 2020).
While 25x’25 is grateful that the RFS does, in fact, carry significant weight in the formal commitments to reducing emissions made by the United States, we continue to believe the administration is undermining its own efforts by adopting last year RFS blending levels for 2014, 2015 and 2016 (and for biodiesel for 2017) that fall far below those set when the standard was reauthorized and strengthened by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. And EPA is ready to compound the problems by continuing to propose lower blending levels for next year.
We urge the administration to return the RFS blending targets to their full statutory levels and put an even greater emphasis on the production of biofuels and the emission reductions they represent.