Senate debates ‘number of challenges’ in RFS
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 16, on the Renewable Fuel Standard.
In an opening statement, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., committee chairman, noted that the committee has not held an oversight hearing on the RFS since 2018, even though the Environmental Protection Agency, which manages the RFS, is under its jurisdiction.
Carper added that, in the early 2000s when Americans were relying on imported oil, Congress created the RFS under the Clean Air Act to provide new economic opportunities for farmers while also lowering dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel we burn in our cars and trucks.
The RFS, he said, still presents “economic and energy opportunities,” but “there have been a number of challenges when it comes to the implementation of the program.”
“We must find better ways to allow new advanced renewable fuels to qualify for the Renewable Fuel Standard. Doing so would be good for our environment, help refineries meet their obligations, and further support a growing domestic biofuel industry,” he said.
He also cited problems in the Renewable Identification Numbers market, which tracks compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard by using the tradable credits referred to as RINs.
“Years of mismanagement under the previous administration, coupled with the unexpected changes in both fuel supply and demand caused by the pandemic, have collectively wreaked havoc on the program’s compliance market, known as the RINs market,” Carper said.
“The huge price swings in RINs costs — from 30 cents to almost $2 per gallon of renewable fuel in less than two years — have created financial uncertainty for everyone, especially those who are required to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard. That, in turn, has made it extremely difficult for obligated parties to make forward-thinking investments in producing cleaner fuels. We must help reduce the volatility in compliance costs for this program to be successful.”
“In closing, as one of the strongest supporters of electric vehicles in the Senate, I know it’s important to remember that we aren’t yet in a post-liquid fuel world. We must retain our domestic capabilities to produce and refine the motor vehicle fuels that power our lives, while also ensuring that these fuels are as clean as possible in order to meet our climate goals,” Carper concluded.
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor testified that in order to realize the full environmental benefits of the RFS, EPA must fix and finalize the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) as quickly as possible.
Skor said, “Since 2013, the RFS has consistently been undermined through the abuse of waivers, small refinery exemptions, and compliance deadline extensions. Most of these administrative actions have been to appease the unfounded claims of a select few looking to subvert the RFS, slowing progress on carbon reductions.
“EPA’s recent proposals, delayed as they are, right some of these wrongs. They include the required 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel in 2022, a long-overdue remedy for EPA’s unlawful 2016 general waiver, and an end to the abuse of small refinery exemptions.
“Despite these positives, EPA takes a major step backward by seeking to revise downward the 2020 blending obligations finalized two years ago. This retroactive change exceeds the agency’s authority and creates market disruption and uncertainty,” Skor added. “EPA needs to fix and finalize the proposals as soon as possible.”
Skor urged the Senators to take action on year-round access to higher blends of ethanol, like E15.
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