A National Renewable Fuels Standard Is Beneficial

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Author: Robert Meyers
Editor: Jacqueline Langwith
Date: 2009
Publisher: Greenhaven Press
Series: Opposing Viewpoints
Document Type: Viewpoint essay
Length: 1,427 words
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1360L

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Robert Meyers, "Testimony Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality," May 8, 2007.

"The expanded use of renewable and alternative fuels supports [President George W. Bush's] goals of enhanced energy security and strengthened environmental protection."

In the following viewpoint, Robert Meyers testifies before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on the issue of renewable energy. He argues that expanding the use of renewable and alternative fuels can reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meyers explains the merits of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), enacted by Congress in 2005 to increase transportation fuels in the nation's fuel supply, and claims that not only is the RFS beneficial, but it should be expanded to include alternative fuels, as called for in the "Twenty in Ten" plan. Robert Meyers works for the Office of Air and Radiation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As you read, consider the following questions:

  1. According to Meyers, what is the difference between the Alternative Fuels Standard and the Renewable Fuels Standard?
  2. What is the National RFS Rule and what should it accomplish, according to Meyers?
  3. What will a transition to renewable fuels do to auto emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency?

Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today to testify on how the expanded use of renewable and alternative fuels supports [President George W. Bush's] goals of enhanced energy security and strengthened environmental protection.

The "Twenty in Ten" Plan

In his 2007 State of the Union Address, the President challenged the nation to address our growing reliance on oil. He called for reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years, while doing so in a way that keeps America's economy growing and protects our environment. This "Twenty in Ten" plan includes a proposed requirement for 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel in 2017. This aggressive goal would build upon EPA's [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] current Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS program, and require the use of renewable and alternative fuel well beyond the 2012 target set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). Expanding this mandate is expected to decrease projected gasoline use by 15 percent. The President's plan seeks to achieve another five percent reduction in gasoline consumption through the Administration's proposal to reform CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards for passenger cars and to extend the current light truck rule. The President's energy plans also emphasize the energy security benefits of increasing domestic oil and gas production and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve [the largest emergency petroleum reserve in the world].

"Twenty in Ten" would diversify the sources and types of fuels we use, while reducing our vulnerability to supply disruptions, sudden price increases, and our overall dependence on oil. At the same time, the plan could help confront the serious challenge of climate change. Attaining these goals will require significant advancements in technology and careful assessment of their benefits and costs. Most importantly, Congress must pass legislation to allow these programs to become a reality.

The Alternative Fuels Standard Builds upon the Renewable Fuels Standard

The Administration's proposed Alternative Fuels Standard [AFS] sets forth an ambitious, but achievable, path forward for an expansion of the use of renewable and alternative fuels. The AFS specifies that 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel be used in the nation's transportation fuel by the year 2017. The AFS would include all fuels that are currently part of the RFS and would include fuels currently classified as "alternative fuels" under the Energy Policy Act. It would also allow other types of fuels to qualify as alternatives for compliance, adding competition in the alternative fuel marketplace. The AFS includes fuels or fuel components such as ethanol (derived from a variety of sources, including corn and cellulosic feedstock), biodiesel, butanol, as well as other alternatives to crude oil-based fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen, and coal-to-liquids. The AFS would also include the use of electricity to power advanced vehicles, including "plug-in" hybrid vehicles....

On April 10, [2007] [EPA administrator Stephen] Johnson signed the National Renewable Fuels Standard Rule, which establishes a comprehensive program that will lead to more than doubling the amount of renewable fuel use between 2006 and 2012. This landmark rule provides market certainty for the expanded production and use of renewable fuels by requiring minimum amounts of renewable fuel volumes to be used in our nation's transportation fuel supply. It also establishes important compliance and implementation measures necessary to assure that these minimum volumes are met. The AFS would build upon the recently completed RFS regulation—the first milestone in increasing the amount of domestically produced renewable fuels used in motor vehicles.

The core compliance measure of the RFS, the credit trading program, was carefully designed by EPA staff in close collaboration with various stakeholders. It works with the existing markets by allowing renewable fuels to be blended when and where it makes sense, while maintaining the necessary flexibility to expand the number and types of fuels as they come to the market.

RFS Results in Reductions in Petroleum Use and Many Emissions

EPA conducted a number of detailed analyses of the RFS program, including the energy, emissions, air quality, and economic impacts of expanded renewable fuel use. These impacts vary depending on the volume and type of renewable fuel anticipated to be used. Our analyses projected fuel use in 2012 using both the minimum volume of renewable fuel required under EPAct 2005 and higher volumes projected in the Energy Information Administration's 2006 Annual Energy Outlook. Thus, the results of EPA's analysis show a range based on these two projections using a 2004 baseline.

With regard to petroleum consumption impacts, EPA estimates that this transition to renewable fuels will result in reductions of between 2.0 and 3.9 billion gallons of petroleum consumption, or roughly 0.8 to 1.6 percent of the approximately 250 billion gallons of petroleum that would otherwise be used in the transportation sector in 2012. EPA also projected that the RFS also will achieve reductions in carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions between 8.0 and 13.1 million metric tons, or about 0.4 to 0.6 percent of the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in the United States in 2012. EPA's analyses additionally found that with regard to other emissions impacts, this program could help reduce carbon monoxide emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment between 0.9 and 2.5 percent and emissions of benzene, a toxic mobile source air pollutant, between 1.8 and 4.0 percent.

At the same time, however, other vehicle emissions may increase, including volatile organic compounds, or VOC's, and oxides of nitrogen, or NOx, both of which are precursors of ozone. These effects will vary significantly by region: areas that already use ethanol blended into gasoline will experience little or no additional change in vehicle emissions or air quality. Those areas where ethanol use increases substantially as a result of the RFS program may see an increase in VOC emissions between 4 and 5 percent and an increase in NOx emissions between 6 and 7 percent from gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment. Emissions of certain air toxics, like acetaldehyde, also increase although the overall volume of such emissions is not large in comparison with the volume of reductions in benzene.

EPA's analysis also included a look at the potential impacts on the nation's agricultural sector. This work found that an increase in the use of renewable fuels associated with the RFS promotes rural development by increasing annual aggregate farm income between $2.7 and $5.4 billion dollars in 2012. In addition, EPA's analysis estimated a possible modest increase in food costs and a potential decrease in exports of certain agricultural commodities such as corn....

AFS, RFS Needed to Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil

Altogether, the President's AFS proposal recognizes the critical need to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil as well as to address rising emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and off-road vehicles. EPA's success in crafting and adopting RFS regulations under EPAct 2005 has proven to be a critical first step in the national expansion of renewable and alternative fuel use in the transportation sector. As Congress considers ways to build on this success, the country now has a model that should help assure the long-term viability of a renewable and alternative fuels program. EPA stands ready to work with Congress to enact the Alternative Fuel Standard into law.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010573226