With reports now coming out of EPA that a final 2014 biofuel blending rule under the Renewable Fuel System (RFS) may not come before the end of September, the focus on what the RFS can do and what it does not do intensifies.
The good news is that this delay gives EPA regulators time to gain a better understanding of the negative impacts reducing the RFS will have on energy and national security, the environment and the rural economy. The bad news is that the policy uncertainty is continuing to put chill on investment in the development of advanced biofuels, the principal outcome the RFS was designed to achieve.
EPA has a wide array of factors – and public comments ‑ to consider before finalizing its RFS proposal. And it’s important that despite some outlandish claims made by the oil industry, which seeks to hold its monopolistic grip on the transportation fuel market, in reaching their decision EPA regulators must focus on facts. Here are ten facts that 25x’25 believes should be at the top of their list:
1. A lifecycle analysis done by researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory and published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that corn ethanol produced between 2008 and 2012 reduced GHG emissions by an average of 34% compared to gasoline, including hypothetical indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions.
2. EPA has documented that transportation accounts for 30 percent of the carbon emissions in the United States. Yet Stephen Mueller and his research team at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, has shown that the RFS is a principal driver of the reduction in emissions that is taking place with the use of biofuels. Mueller and his team note that by 2022, corn based fuels (corn ethanol and stover cellulosic fuels) will offer a 60-percent reduction in carbon intensity, or total annual emissions savings of 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent when compared to petroleum-based fuels.
3. Economically, the biofuel industry supports more than 400,000 jobs and investment in the advanced biofuels industry, which is driven by the RFS, is expected to produce $150 billion of economic output and support 800,000 jobs by 2022, if the standard is left untouched.
4. Ethanol has averaged a 17.39-cent discount to gasoline since 2005. The price of E85, a blend of 85-percent ethanol and 15-percent gasoline available for flex-fuel engines, is currently running at a nearly half the price of gasoline in Iowa.
5. By EPA’s own estimates, the RFS, as it stands, will replace 13.6 billion gallons of petroleum fuel by 2022, displacing 138 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road.
6. E15 (a 15-percent blend of ethanol in gas) poses no risks to vehicle engines manufactured since 2001. EPA approved the use of E15 for these vehicles only after the fuel was tested by DOE staff for several years over tens of thousands of driving miles.
7. The RFS has virtually no impact on the price of food. USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber told a House Energy Committee hearing last year that ethanol’s effects on retail food prices found in grocery stores have been minimal because farm commodities make up only about 14 percent of each dollar the nation spends on food.
8. Thanks to advances in crop genetics, technology, precision farming equipment and conservation practices, there is more than enough corn, soybeans and other renewable energy biomass feedstocks to satisfy food, feed, fiber and fuel requirements.
9. Diminishing the role of first-generation biofuels in our nation’s fuel supplies will have a chilling effect on the billions of investment dollars at stake in the development of even cleaner second- and third-generation biofuels. For example, a recent five-year, three-state study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows that switchgrass grown for biofuel production produced 540 percent more energy than that needed to grow, harvest and process it into cellulosic ethanol.
10. Fossil fuels are finite. Biofuels are derived from an infinite source of feedstocks. They are made from plants that grow and can be replanted repeatedly. Soon, perennial crops that don’t need replanting, like switchgrass, will be available to produce an unending supply of biofuels.
It is critical that EPA use the time it is giving itself to distinguish between the myths perpetrated by those who would sustain the “business as usual” approach to our nation’s energy strategy, and the facts ascertained through credible research and good science showing the strong and ever-widening benefits of a domestically grown source of transportation fuel.