At the very top of EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard website, you’ll find this description of the program devised by Washington in 2005 and expanded in 2007:
Congress created the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil.
No question, the RFS was well-intentioned. But more than a decade later, here’s what we know about those top-line objectives set out by Congress:
- First, while the United States is less reliant on imported crude oil – it’s mostly thanks to surging domestic crude production, not the RFS.
- Greenhouse gas emissions have declined – primarily because increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas, not RFS mandates requiring ever-increasing levels of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply.
With EPA receiving public input this week on its proposed ethanol-use volumes for 2018, it’s important to see that America’s energy renaissance in natural gas and oil production is the biggest reason for the progress the U.S. has made toward those RFS objectives. Two charts: On crude imports, while ethanol production has increased since 2008, the increase in domestic oil production more than accounts for the decrease in net crude imports over the same period:
As for emissions, levels of carbon dioxide associated with electricity generation are near 30-year lows, primarily because of increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas:
While the United States has made important climate progress and increased its energy security largely apart from RFS contributions, the RFS itself continues to have difficulties that could impact consumers and the overall economy. Frank Macchiarola, API downstream group director (pictured below), described some of these in remarks at EPA’s public hearing in Washington.
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