The RFS And A Biofuel Future

  • Monday, 26 February 2018 10:12

t rudnicki

By Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq

Yes, Sen. Ted Cruz and his henchpeople are doing all they can to tear down the RFS as I write this piece. And we, along with other biofuel proponents, are doing all we can to bolster lawmakers’ support for the RFS. Toward that end, the facts, the evidence are unequivocal: the RFS continues to deliver substantive consumer, economic, energy security and environmental benefits.

These assertions are based on facts. We, as the trade association for Minnesota's ethanol industry, need to know whether the RFS is working as intended by Congress. If the RFS is not working, it should be modified to make it work. On the other hand, if the RFS is working, it should be allowed to fully perform as intended by Congress.

So what does the data and the evidence show?

The RFS is working.

To recap the facts: ethanol (1) provides consumers with a better value at the pump (higher octane at 5 to 15 cents less than regular unleaded), (2) has the potential to reduce annual GHG emissions by 1.07 million metric tons if all regular gasoline sales in Minnesota contained 15 percent ethanol, (3) comprises 12.4 percent of the transportation fuel in Minnesota with room to grow and (4) supports over 18,800 jobs in Minnesota.

Nothing fake here. The metrics are real numbers from the field and include data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Argonne National Laboratory, University of Illinois Chicago GHG specialist and the Minnesota Departments of Commerce and Revenue.

With respect to the most current analysis about the contribution of the Minnesota ethanol industry to the Minnesota economy and well-being of residents, we rely on subject matter experts to give us the facts. Upon reviewing, evaluating and analyzing the relevant data for 2017, a reputable economist reports that in addition to supporting 18,800 jobs, the Minnesota ethanol industry contributed $2.17 billion to the gross domestic product and $1.54 billion to household incomes and paid $192 million in state and local taxes.

Yes indeed, the RFS is working and most likely working better than the petroleum industry interests anticipated. Perhaps that’s why Sen. Cruz and his ilk are using Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a refiner that is failing due to its own mismanagement, as a tool to inflict harm upon and damage to the RFS. 

We encourage lawmakers to ask tough questions about petroleum’s ruse. And we ask lawmakers to have the facts when a party challenges the RFS. Please know the RFS is working as intended by Congress.  Ethanol is indeed displacing finite petroleum and moving us toward a more renewable and sustainable energy pathway. While we are making progress in displacing finite, carbon intensive petroleum, we have much more work to do. Therefore, to complete the transition to renewable energy in the transportation sector, we, as a state and sation, need to keep strong the RFS so we can collectively more fully decarbonize the transportation sector.

This takes me to the last point about the RFS - where do we go from here or in 2022?  For the immediate future, given the results delivered by the RFS, we should all work to keep strong the RFS.  To explore the longer term issues, MBA will be convening stakeholders in the next few months. To queue up the broader issues, I will close with a few points for the biofuel industry, lawmakers and other stakeholders to consider. At the root of all our efforts should be the drive to more fully decarbonize the transportation sector.  

What does this mean over a span of 10 to 15 years?  In the short term, that means making E15 available to all consumers with a spark ignition powered vehicle that was built after 2000. While we celebrate the sale of approximately 20 million gallons of E15 during 2017 in Minnesota, we need to displace at least 150 million gallons of petroleum gasoline each month!  Providing RVP parity for E15 will help to further accelerate this transition. Perhaps the next rung to decarbonizing the transportation sector is the use of mid-level blends of ethanol.

The infrastructure is moving into place so a growing number of fuel retailers can actually offer to consumer, for example, 25 percent ethanol blends for use in EPA-approved vehicles. This will require the proper research and testing so as to obtain approvals similar to what was done for E15. Meanwhile, in my humble opinion, we should also embrace EVs powered by a green electrical grid, a grid filled with electrons moving from wind energy conversion or solar arrays. Europe is making the transition as evidenced by various policies and the vehicle line-up for a growing number of manufacturers. My hunch is this: if we embrace a broader renewable vision and put the focus on decarbonizing the transportation sector, we will discover new and expanded opportunities for biofuels.

In closing, all of us must continue to work to keep strong the RFS. Let’s put the focus on getting E15 fully deployed across the entire fuel supply chain in the United States.