Sensenbrenner introduces bills that aim to reform the RFS

By Erin Voegele | February 02, 2017

On Jan. 31, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced two bills that aim to alter the renewable fuel standard (RFS). One focuses on mid-level ethanol blends, while the other focuses on cellulosic biofuels.

H.R. 777 calls for a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the use of mid-level ethanol blends. The text of the bill defines mid-level ethanol blend as those containing more than 10 percent ethanol, up to and including 20 percent ethanol. The measure aims to require the EPA to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to provide “a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends, comparing mid-level ethanol blends to gasoline blends containing 10 percent or 0 percent ethanol.”

The EPA and NAC would be required to complete the assessment within 18 months. The results would then be submitted to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

Prior to the submission of the report, any waiver granted under section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act allowing for the sale of mid-level blends for use in vehicles would have no force or effect. The EPA would also be directed to grant no new waivers under the regulation until after the submission of the report.

H.R. 776 calls for the volume of cellulosic biofuel mandated under the RFS to be limited to what is commercially available until a comprehensive study is completed. The bill also calls for the EPA to enter into an agreement with the National Academies for a comprehensive study on the annual production capacity for cellulosic biofuel and the resources needed to ensure that transportation fuel sold or introduced into commerce in the U.S. contains at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2022. This includes the number of cellulosic ethanol facilities to be constructed, the acres of land to be used and the total capital investment needed. The report would also be required to address several other factors, including data on the energy balance of cellulosic fuels, the environmental impacts of producing cellulosic biofuel, a review of technology and the economics of a cellulosic ethanol facility.

For the proposes of the study, the legislation states that “cellulosic biofuel” would not include compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, or electricity used to power electrical vehicles that is produced form biogas generated from a landfill, municipal wastewater treatment facility digester, separated municipal solid waste digester or an agricultural digester.

Both bills were referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. To date, no cosponsors have signed on to support either measure.