Ethanol advocates discuss CFS, post-2022 RFS at FEW

By Erin Voegele | July 14, 2021

Representatives of the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol and Growth Energy on July 14 discussed the potential of a federal low carbon fuels standard and the post-2022 Renewable Fuel Standard during the general session of the 2021 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo.

Chris Bliley, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Growth Energy; Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE; and Troy Bredenkamp, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the RFA, said that the Biden administration’s focus on climate change can greatly benefit the ethanol sector, so long as the administration gets policy details right.

When it comes to a federal clean fuels standard (CFS), Bliley stressed the importance of a technology-neutral policy. “You can’t put your thumb on the scale for anyone,” he said, noting that it must be a real, true performance standard.

For a CFS to truly benefit the ethanol sector, Bliley said there also must be a path forward for higher ethanol blends. “If you have a performance standard that gets tighter and tighter, but you have no room for growth in the marketplace…its sort of a dead end,” he said.

Bliley noted that the science around ethanol keeps getting better and better. New innovations at the plant level and the farm level can enable ethanol to be carbon-negative, he said.

Jennings said efforts around a CFS have dominated a lot of the work ACE has done over the past three years. If the policy is done correctly, is truly technology neutral and employs the latest lifecycle science, Jennings said ethanol comes out as a clear winner. “Carbon markets could be the most important way to both increase demand and value for ethanol,” Jennings said, “but we’ve got to get the policy right.”

Bredenkamp also discussed the importance of a technology neutral CFS. The Biden administration is setting very ambitious carbon goals, he said, stressing that ethanol is a solution that can deploy very quickly if the policy is developed in the right way. “The sky is the limit, I think, if that policy gets done correctly,” Bredenkamp said.  

A potential CFS, however, is not the only federal policy ethanol groups are working to shape. The U.S. EPA is also scheduled to undertake a rulemaking within the next year to develop post-2022 regulations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Bliley said Growth Energy sees an opportunity with that RFS “reset” rule. There is also a bit of fear and caution. Big Oil is expected to lobby heavily for changes that would benefit fossil fuels. However, there is also tremendous opportunity for biofuel industry to lobby the agency to better recognize the carbon reduction attributes of renewable fuels.

Jennings stressed that both the RFS and a future CFS will be important to the ethanol industry moving forward, and said the industry does not want to see the RFS replaced with a CFS. Rather, both policies should work together.

Importantly, federal climate policy—if done correctly—should help create new markets and new sources of income for ethanol producers. Jennings predicts that carbon markets and a CFS will become an important new income source for the ethanol industry. “We know we can make a meaningful contribution to GHG reductions now,” Jennings said, stressing “there is money to be make, folks, in these carbon markets—if they are done properly.”