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Backtracking on the Renewable Fuel Standard Could Harm Rural America, the Economy and the Environment

Backtracking on the Renewable Fuel Standard Could Harm Rural America, the Economy and the Environment

[caption id="attachment_1271" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Biofuels industry threatened by changes to the renewable fuel standard Credit: USDA, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]   Petroleum industry representatives have put pressure on the Trump administration to backtrack on the renewable fuel standard (RFS) — an energy policy that was introduced back in 2005 by President George Bush to give local biofuel producers access to the local transportation fuel market, which up until then had been monopolized by the petroleum giants. How will this affect the biofuels industry and the American people? The RFS program has benefited Americans enormously. Not only has it provided job opportunities and fueled economic growth in rural areas of America, it has reduced the dependence on imported petroleum-based products and promoted the use of cleaner fuels such as biodiesel in the transport sector, with truck fleets, emergency vehicles and school buses largely running on this greener renewable alternative. The switch to cleaner fuels means reduced carbon dioxide emissions, which is good for the environment. Now, some members of the oil industry, have approached the White House requesting that the price of renewable identification numbers (RINs) — the method used to track renewable fuel used within the program — be capped, which in effect would stifle growth of the domestic renewable fuel industry. This would have both economic and environmental repercussions. The RFS promotes the incorporation of locally produced biofuel into the fuel marketplace, giving refineries the option of blending biofuels with petroleum fuels or purchasing compliance credits from other refineries who have exceeded their required RFS obligation. These options were added in an effort to provide some flexibility, as well as to provide a financial incentive for refineries to do their own blending.

But some argue that capping the price of RINs — the credits purchased from other refineries who have exceeded their blending obligation rather than blending in-house — would undermine the merits of the program and effectively stifle growth of the biofuels industry.

In an article recently published in The Hill, former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who was an original contributing author of the renewable fuel standard, outlines the impact this move would have on the American biofuels industry — both ethanol producers and the biodiesel industry, as well as the environmental impact of rolling back measures which have resulted in a more than 80% reduction in carbon emissions since biodiesel has been produced for commercial use nationwide.

According to Dorgan: “Analysis by the National Biodiesel Board and the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services found that capping the price of conventional biofuel RINs would significantly harm the production of biodiesel and related industries. This harm includes a reduction of up to 300 million gallons in biomass-based diesel volumes each year, $185 million more in feed costs for livestock producers, likely leading to an increase in food costs for consumers, and $0.16 less per bushel for soybeans.”

Dorgan lauds the US biodiesel industry as a ‘spectacular success’ that currently provides more than 64,000 American’s with jobs, contributing in excess of US$11 billion to the economy, with the potential to grow further still. It is simply ludicrous to reward a small minority of refiners who cry foul, to the detriment of an entire industry and the workforce and economy it supports.

“Those pushing for changes like a RIN cap say they want a “win-win” solution. But they are pushing to fix something that isn’t broken with a plan that will be a loser for the renewable fuels industry,” says Dorgan. “The Trump administration shouldn’t try to appease this small segment of refiners who oppose the RFS program at the expense of biodiesel and rural America. The RFS is not broken. It works. The president has been a supporter of the RFS, and he is in a position to make decisions that will continue to grow renewable fuels in America’s future.”

Wise words indeed. We hope that President Trump thinks this through properly, giving due consideration to what is truly at stake for America, Mother Earth, and the environment rather than just a few who are more concerned about their own vested interests.

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