Renewable Fuels Under Threat

Renewable Fuels Standards Under Threat

By Kevin Vanderheiden

Most Americans are unaware that the gas from the pump generally contains at least 10% ethanol.  An increase in biofuel benefits drivers in the following ways

  • Celluclosic ethanol can reduce green house gasses by 86%. 
  • E85 sold for a national average of $2.36/gallon [July 2015]
  • Gasoline sold at $2.82/gallon [July 2015]
  • By 2030 the United States could produce 54 billion gallons of Biofuel
  • Americans collectively spend $2 billion per day on Petroleum. . 
  • Ethanol biofuel is a sector of domestic renewable energy.

American industry needs energy change to stay competitive however, change requires courage in leadership and policy. Audentes Fourtuna Iuvat Fortune aids the daring. The daring demand an economy driven by renewable, clean energy. Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe


He states “Renewable fuels are a huge opportunity…[they] capture private investment, create jobs and save drivers money.” 

Incorporating Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) strategy with more stringent standards translates into stronger benefits.  On May 29th the EPA proposed new regulation on the annual RFS enforcement. Because of the RFS, the company Novozymes invested hundreds of millions of dollars to help grow a biofuels industry America currently relies on petroleum power. 

The Lowered Standard

Janet McCabe an assistant administrator for the EPA defended the reduction citing “We’re balancing two dynamics; Congress’ clear intent to increase renewable fuels over time to address climate change and increase energy security and real-world circumstances that have slowed progress towards those goals.”

Larger blends of ethanol increase demand, and further drive domestic energy production.
Interested parties cite a “blend wall” as ammunition towards reworking or repealing RFS. A “blend wall” is set when designing vehicle engines. Most modern automobile engines are engineered to accept a 10% Ethanol fuel blend, or E10. Oil industry spokespeople determine the E10 blend has reached near total market saturation. Flex fuel vehicles [FFVs] contain engines engineered to burn 0E to 85E or 0% to 85% ethanol. The existence of such vehicles in large quantities, though not as prevalent as E10 vehicles,  provides ample grounds for refuting a “blend wall” of E10 is the highest the market can tolerate. The U.S. Department of Energy on May 16th 2012 published a study, stating that“…No significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance) …with the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline”

Tackling the Standard

Companies such as Novozymes, develop enzymes that breakdown the starch into ethanol. Novozymes also spearheads the development of an alternative source of industrial byproducts such as, corn stalks, switch grass and wood pulp. This source of ethanol cellulosic ethanol, doesn’t come from food sources.

Ethanol production in the United States involves corn harvesting. To derive ethanol from grain, the grain is ground into a coarse meal, added to hot water, let to cool with the addition of yeast. Yeast consumes the starch and produces alcohols such as ethanol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The leftover grain is then suitable for livestock. 

  • Opponents claim ethanol would use valuable land, taking food out of citizen’s mouths.
  • The variety of corn used for ethanol is not the same corn in the grocery store. 
  • The variety of corn used for high fructose corn syrup and livestock feed is also for ethanol.
  • The beef industry could use the remains of ethanol production instead. 

The soda and candy industries might see higher sweetener costs, however most health professionals would applaud less sweetener in the average American diet.

Efforts to Weaken RFS

A decade since RFS were created, the Obama Administration proposed weakening the RFS by 4 billion gallons short of the requirement of law. The statute requires 22.5 billions gallons in 2016 while the EPA proposed 17.4 gallons for the same year. The original RFS requires 36 billion gallons by 2020. The proposed weaken standards makes the initial goal exceeding difficult to reach. Either the new guidelines will fail to meet the original standards proposed by congress or the guidelines must rapidly increase. Brendan Williams of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufactures, seeks to remove or reduce the RFS stating“If the RFS isn’t adjusted, it will divorce itself from reality.” In spite of  Mr. Williams wishes, the benefits to consumers and energy security of a strong RFS are powerful.

Inability to reach the statutes enacted by congress stands as testament towards the will of embracing alternative fuels. If the United States cannot sever ties with foreign petrol dependence while a law is in place, interested parties will continue to promote the status quo. 

RFS provides cost efficient domestic alternatives towards fluctuating foreign petrol. RFS allow the steady migration towards stabilization and alternative fuel sources. RFS are a portion of every sustainability goals. Though most Americans may be unaware ethanol already exists in U.S. gasoline. Without the support of brave companies, others will phase out increases in ethanol fuel blends. Greatness never arrives via stagnation.  RFS must receive strength and support.