Bush Administration Proposes Renewable Fuels Program

On Sept. 7, the Bush administration proposed a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) Program designed to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil by doubling the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The program, authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, will promote use of fuels largely produced by American crops.

"For years, our nation's rolling farm fields have filled America's breadbaskets. Now, by helping meet President Bush's renewable energy goals, these same fields are filling America's gas tanks," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

Advanced technologies under development could make it possible to produce renewable ethanol from agricultural and industrial waste at a cost competitive with today's gas prices, officials said.

"The Renewable Fuels Standard recognizes the value of home-grown energy, and it supports our rural roots by investing in biofuels," said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. "It also increases ethanol and biodiesel use and is the first step toward America's energy future."

The new regulation proposes that 3.71 percent of all the gasoline sold or dispensed to U.S. motorists in 2007 be renewable fuel. Last December, EPA issued a rule implementing the Energy Policy Act's default standard of 2.78 percent for 2006, which will continue to apply through this calendar year. The RFS program is designed to cut petroleum use by approximately 3.9 billion gallons a year in 2012 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 14 million tons annually.

In addition to preliminary analyses of the economic and environmental impacts, the proposed regulation explains how industry is likely to comply with the RFS for 2007 and beyond. The rule contains compliance tools and a credit and trading system that is integral to the overall program. The system allows renewable fuels to be used where they are most economical, while providing a flexible means for industry to comply with the standard, officials said.

Various renewable fuels can be used to meet the requirements of RFS program, including ethanol and biodiesel. While the RFS program provides the certainty that a minimum amount of renewable fuel will be used in the United States; more can be used if fuel producers and blenders choose to do so. In 2006, there will be about 4.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel consumed as motor vehicle fuel in the United States. The RFS program requires that this volume increase to at least 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.

A national RFS will expand the use of biodiesel and ethanol, creating new markets for farm products and greater energy security, agency officials said. However, National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) President Bob Slaughter criticized the proposal, stating that his organization "continues to have serious concerns about the wisdom of policies than mandate a prescribed ethanol or biodiesel content in the nation's transportation fuel supply.

"Consumers will be better served if the market, rather than politics, determines future use of fuel-blending components, including renewables. Given widespread agreement that there will be a continuing need for these materials in the future, as there is today, government intervention to mandate their inclusion only raises the cost of manufacturing the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies," Slaughter said.

For more information on the proposal, go to http://www.epa.gov/otaq/renewablefuels.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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