EPA’s plans to water down its original proposals for growth in mandated US biofuels demand threaten to slow the demonstrable carbon reduction credentials of the first ten years of operation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, according to a new study. Growth in mandated biofuel consumption over the past ten years has slashed US carbon emissions by nearly 590mn t, according to research by US biotechnology trade association BIO. This is equivalent to more than 3% of US road transport fuel carbon emissions over the same period according to EPA data, despite the relatively small size of the mandate in the early years of RFS.
“Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed RFS rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 will cut short the emission reduction and energy independence potential of the RFS program by limiting market space for renewable fuels and consequently guaranteeing more market space for petroleum fuels,” BIO said.
EPA’s May revisions to its RVO proposal will contribute an additional 19.6mn t of CO2 emissions from the nation’s vehicle fleet this year relative to the cuts that could be achieved through higher biofuel blends, rising to an additional 56.2mn t of emissions in 2016, BIO said.
While the RFS standard still demands mandatory blending by volume, governments internationally are increasingly looking at adapting volumetric mandates to concentrate on greenhouse gas reduction as the best way to stimulate growth of the greenest fuels.
Germany introduced set carbon reduction targets for road transport fuel suppliers at the start of this year, a move which has pushed the biofuels suppliers to quickly improve their headline carbon savings in order to grow or maintain market share. Biofuels supplied into Germany now advertise a minimum of 50% GHG saving relative to their fossil fuel substitutes, well ahead of the Renewable Energy Directive’s targeted 35% reduction for this year.
California’s pioneering LCFS road transport fuel carbon reduction scheme meanwhile is growing in its importance to regional fuel suppliers as the state’s “hockey stick” carbon cap starts to drive the price of tradeable credits higher. LCFS aims to cut California’s carbon emissions by more than 10% by 2020. California aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 80% relative to 1990 levels by 2050.