US implementation of renewable fuel standard hindered by challenges

25 April 2013 02:30  [Source: ICIS news]

CHICAGO (ICIS)--The US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) faces several implementation issues, including concerns about current mandates and arguments from industry opponents, a university associate said on Wednesday.

The RFS was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to establish a fuel volume mandate to boost ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable resources in the US. It was expanded in 2007 and finalised in 2010.

“Cellulosic biofuel mandates are significantly outpacing commercial production as a result of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] having to waive down that cellulosic biofuel mandate for the last few years,” said Timothy Slating, a regulatory associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Energy Biosciences Institute.

Another issue is the E10 “blend wall”, or the limit on the use of ethanol in gasoline, he said during a forum at the Bio International Convention.

E10 is a gasoline blend that contains no more than 10% of ethanol.

“In essence, renewable fuel mandates are beginning to necessitate the use of ethanol in volumes that exceed lawful blending limits,” Slating said.

There are also concerns about Renewable Identification Number (RIN) fraud and what the EPA is going to do to address that, he said.

RINs are credits refiners use to meet government mandates for blending ethanol into the gasoline pool.

The EPA has discovered that over 140m invalid biomass-based diesel RINs have been generated and submitted. The fraudulent RINs were generated by people who claimed they produced biodiesel but did not.

Another implementation issue that the RFS faces is the growing trend that involves oil industry groups, food industry groups and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) forming coalitions to actively seek the repeal or significant revision of the RFS, Slating said.

There have been a number of lawsuits that have been filed, including one that seeks to overturn the EPA’s decision on authorising E15, a gasoline blend that contains 15% of ethanol.

The Bio International Convention runs through 25 April.

By: Tracy Dang
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