In December 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Among many other provisions, it increased the mandated volumes of renewable fuels in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). However, Congress and EPA have both seriously overestimated these RFS cellulosic volumes.
The RFS has four mandates:
• Total renewable fuels,
• Advanced biofuels,
• Biomass-based diesel and
• Cellulosic biofuels.
These categories are nested. Biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuels and other advanced biofuels are parts of the advanced biofuel requirement. Advanced and conventional biofuels make up total renewable fuels, yet both Congress and EPA’s RFS cellulosic volume estimates were seriously unrealistic:
Million ethanol-equivalent gallons
On January 25, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the cellulosic biofuel portion of EPA’s 2012 RFS.
Stakeholders have been reminded of EPA’s errors. First, in November 2013, the Agency proposed to set the 2011 RFS cellulosic biofuel requirement to zero. Second, in May 2014, the Agency reduced the RFS cellulosic biofuel requirement for 2013 by 87 percent, from 6.0 million to 810,185. Furthermore, EPA has still not yet promulgated RFS cellulosic volumes for 2014 or 2015.
Yes, Congress got carried away in 2007. But what is EPA’s excuse? EPA has promulgated RFS cellulosic biofuel volumes one year at a time. For 2013, EPA left it until very late to promulgate renewable fuel volumes in August 2013, and this still was aspirational and not close to actual RFS cellulosic biofuel levels.