Based on analysis done by the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (Bio) in the past decade, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) programme’s requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9-billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589-million tonnes.
“The RFS was signed into law ten years ago by former President George W Bush. The law’s purpose was to end America’s addiction to oil, reduce reliance on foreign oil and lower carbon emissions from the transportation sector,” says Bio industrial and environmental executive VP Brent Erickson.
He adds that the RFS programme has demonstrably achieved the goals that were set for it. This is as a result of the total reduction in carbon emissions achieved under the programme being equal to removing more than 124-million cars from the road over the decade.
Despite these milestones, Erickson bemoans the unfortunate delay by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in issuing new rules for the RFS programme, which he proposes is halting growth in the biofuels market.
According to the analysis done by Bio, the first version of the RFS called for yearly increases in production and use of biofuels through to 2012. Following this, the US government updated and expanded the programme in December 2007 – the second version – to more aggressively increase the use of biofuels through to 2022 to promote commercialisation of advanced biofuels.
Following the implementation of the second version of the RFS, the market reserved for biofuels expanded to about 20% of the projected transportation fuel pool in 2022. The second RFS also specified that biofuels qualifying for the programme would have to achieve specific, verifiable reductions in carbon emissions, compared with petroleum diesel.
“The EPA’s delay will continue to allow fossil fuels to be used when cleaner, lower-carbon biofuels are available, which reverses some of the progress made in the past ten years,” he indicates.
Erickson points out that this year alone, the agency allowing for the continuation of the use of fossil fuels instead of biofuels would add 19.6-million tonnes of carbon dioxide for the year. This is equal to putting 7.3-million cars back on the road, compared with what would be achievable through higher levels of biofuel use.
Further, the report points out that to continue the record of successful reductions in reliance on foreign oil along with reductions in carbon emissions, the EPA should put the RFS programme back on track.