More than one-third of the world’s total energy usage relies on liquid fuels – primarily from fossil fuels. In the first quarter of 2013 consumption outpaced production, and the consumption trajectory is only expected to rise. Energy, especially liquid fuel, involves a global marketplace, and to our benefit in the U.S., Congress passed, and fomer President George W. Bush signed, legislation that not only fosters domestic energy production from more sustainable sources, but also provides a path for important green house gas emission reductions. So when frustration over that legislation – the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – is expressed, and done so overlooking the policy’s fundamentals, history and future impact, it deserves to be addressed.
It’s the Renewable Fuel Standard, not the Ethanol Fuel Standard
The RFS, originated in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act and later expanded in 2007 under the Energy Independence and Security Act, was designed to incentivize the development and growth of a more sustainable liquid fuel infrastructure – one that incorporates renewable fuels into the marketplace. Nowhere does the law say that oil refiners and marketers must meet volume requirements by purchasing and blending ethanol.
So how is it that ethanol has become the poster child for renewable fuel? Because instead of investing in innovation and fostering new technology for truly sustainable renewable fuel solutions that fit with the existing fuel infrastructure, oil companies turned to the path of least resistance – ethanol. It was already there, in abundance, and could be blended with gasoline. This would allow the oil industry to “check the box” and later pin its limitations against the entire renewable fuels industry.
Seven years later, as mandates have expanded, the oil industry would like to do away with the RFS because it