A Victory for the RFS

By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2012

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) is safe—at least for now.

Late last week, the U.S. EPA announced that it would not grant a waiver request to suspend the RFS, as it did not uncover evidence to support a finding of severe economic harm. A finding of severe economic harm is needed in order for the agency to grant a waiver request.

The official waiver requests were filed by governors of several states, most of which have extensive livestock industries. Last summer’s drought, and the resulting impact on the corn production and prices, is what prompted the waivers to be filed. Those pushing for the waiver essentially argued that the ethanol industry created high corn prices, causing economic harm to the economy—specifically to the livestock industry.

While the controversy primarily revolved around the corn ethanol industry, any time the RFS is challenged, it should be of concern to all of us in the biofuels industry.

In a response to the EPA’s decision, the Biotechnology Industry Organization pointed out that an RFS waiver could have undercut ongoing investments in the advanced biofuel sector. “Renewable fuels are a significant contributor to our nation's economy and energy security, creating jobs and directly reducing reliance on imported oil,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “This decision allows BIO member companies to continue to deliver innovative technologies to the market to expand our domestic production of biofuels, including fuels from agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, algae and purpose grown energy crops.”

I’m sure this will be far from the only challenge we’ll see to the RFS. While some federal lawmakers are expected to introduce proposals to alter the RFS and hold congressional hearings on the program during the next legislative season, these efforts aren’t expected to gain much traction—at least in the short term.

Still, our industry must remain diligent in defending the program, and ensuring that a strong RFS continues to remain in place to support the development of the advanced and cellulosic biofuels. It’s imperative that we all work together to support the program, and present a united front against all challenges, whether they are focused on first-generation production or the cellulosic industry.