The Renewable Fuel Standard’s effectiveness has long been called into question by the oil industry. Now it’s the subject of an EPA internal investigation, as the agency launches its own review of the environmental benefits of the biofuels mandate, which requires refiners to blend corn-based ethanol with gasoline.
According to an Oct. 15 letter on the EPA’s website, the Office of Inspector General for the EPA plans to begin research on lifecycle impacts of the EPA’s renewable fuel standard.
“Our objectives are to determine whether the EPA: 1) complied with the reporting requirements of laws authorizing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS); and 2) updated the lifecycle analysis supporting the RFS with findings from the statutorily mandated National Academy of Sciences 2011 study on biofuels, the EPA’s 2011 Report to Congress on the Environmental Impacts of Biofuels, as well as any subsequent reports or relevant research on lifecycle impacts of biofuels. We plan to perform our work within the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Research and Development,” the letter says.
The EPA in May released the long-delayed proposed volume requirements under the RFS program that would reduce the levels of biofuels blended into conventional fuel but still require small increases over the next few years. The EPA is proposing to establish 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel use in that year.
The proposed 2016 standard for cellulosic biofuel — those fuels with the lowest GHG emissions profile — is more than 170 million gallons higher than the actual 2014 volumes. That’s six times higher than actual 2014 volumes.