CLEAN Future Act includes RFS, renewable energy provisions

By Erin Voegele | March 02, 2021

House Committee on Energy and Commerce democrats on March 2 introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, which sets a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The bill also sets an interim target of reducing GHG pollution by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

A statement released by the committee explains the targets come from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has said carbon pollution must be cut to net-zero by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. The bill presents both sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to meet those targets.

The bill spans nearly 1,000 pages and includes a variety of provisions related to transportation, the power sector, the building sector, and the industrial sector. This includes several provisions that would benefit the biofuels and bioenergy industries.

One subtitle of the bill is focused specifically on cleaner fuels. It directs the U.S. EPA to take final action on petitions for renewable fuel pathways if 90 days or more have passed since the date of the petition’s submission and when the fuel type, production process, and feedstock submitted have been approved for sale in at least one state under a program to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuel. The bill also sets a deadline of June 1 for submission of a petition for a small refinery exemption (SRE) under the Renewable Fuels Standard and disqualifies any late-submitted petition. In addition, starting in 2023, the name of a small refinery requesting an SRE, the number of gallons of renewable fuel that will be exempted, and the compliance year for which an extension is requested would be subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

For the transportation sector, the bill would require the U.S. EPA to promulgate GHG emissions standards for new nonroad engines and new nonroad vehicles. EPA would also be required to promulgate tiered emissions standards for GHG emissions from existing in-service aircraft engines and for new aircraft delivered on or after Jan. 1, 2030. The agency would also be required to consider all currently or potentially available technologies and flexibility mechanisms that enable increased emission reduction ambition.

The bill also aims to establish a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard, which would require all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 80 percent clean electricity by 2030, ramping up to 100 percent by 2035. Qualified renewable biomass, landfill gas and municipal solid waste are among the renewable energy sources that could help meet that goal.

Another section of the bill directs the EPA to stablish a grant program for states to construct large-scale composting and anaerobic digestion food waste-to-energy projects. The bill would allocate $100 million per year for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2031 to support the grant program.

The Renewable Fuels Association has released a statement welcoming the RFS integrity provisions of the CLEAN Future Act. The RFA also noted that as talks on the draft legislation proceed, the ethanol industry will continue to advocate for market-based, fuel-neutral approaches for reducing carbon emissions that do not arbitrarily pick technology winners and losers.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard has already created a solid foundation for cutting transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, with a recent study finding that biofuels use under the program has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 billion metric tons,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “We know renewable fuels like ethanol can play an even larger role in reducing the carbon impacts of our nation’s transportation fuels moving forward. The RFS-related provisions in the CLEAN Future Act draft take a step toward maximizing the program’s ability to drive innovation and reduce GHG emissions, but more work remains to be done to fully capitalize on ethanol’s potential to fight climate change.”

As the Energy and Commerce Committee continues to discuss and refine the CLEAN Future Act, Cooper said RFA will continue to promote the climate and environmental justice benefits that renewable fuels bring to the table. “We look forward to continuing our engagement and interaction with the Committee and other members of Congress as the next steps are taken toward addressing carbon emissions from the transportation sector,” he said. “In particular, we are eager to discuss the importance of fuel- and vehicle-neutral carbon performance standards that can aggressively and immediately reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.”

Growth Energy has also welcomed introduction of the bill. “We are pleased to see the CLEAN Future Act includes biofuels, through the RFS Integrity Act and through encouraging advanced and cellulosic biofuel pathway approvals, in its climate goals for the nation,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.  A recent report found that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46 percent lower than those of gasoline. This means that in order to achieve an immediate or near-term clean energy future, biofuels like ethanol must be in the mix as a majority of cars on the road will still continue to be powered by liquid fuels.

“The inclusion of biofuels in the CLEAN Future Act is a nod to their effectiveness in our country’s climate efforts and their critical role in decarbonizing the transportation sector,” she continued.

Additional information, including a full copy of the CLEAN Future Act, is available on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce website