Welch, Udall introduce bills to gut the RFS, walk back E15

By Erin Voegele | November 18, 2019

Legislation introduced on Nov. 14 aims to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard by phasing out the participation of corn ethanol in the program, capping ethanol content in gasoline, altering mandates and eligible feedstocks for cellulosic and advanced biofuels, and implementing a fee on renewable identification numbers (RINs) to fund environmental programs.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced the bill, known as the Greener Fuels Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 14. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate the same day. To date, only Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., has signed on to cosponsor the house bill, HR 5113. No senators have cosponsored the Senate bill, S. 2875. The House bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committees on Natural Resources, Science, Space and Technology. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The bill would phase out the annual renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for conventional biofuel, which is primarily met with corn ethanol. For calendar years 2020 through 2024, the RVO would be set at 15 billion gallons. It would fall to 13 billion gallons in 2025, 11 billion gallons in 2026, 9 billion gallons in 2027, 7 billion gallons in 2028, 5 billion gallons in 2029 and 1 billion gallons in 2030.

The bill also includes a provision aims to limit ethanol to 9.7 percent of gasoline blends. The bill states that no annual RVOs could be set that would result “in the introduction into commerce in the [U.S.] of a total volume of conventional biofuel contained in transportation fuel that is greater than 9.7 percent of the total volume of gasoline projected to be sold or introduced in to commerce in the [U.S.] for that calendar year.”

In addition, the legislation aims to alter the definitions of cellulosic and advanced biofuels. It would prevent advanced biofuel and cellulosic biofuel from including any fuel derived from corn-kernel-based feedstock. It also places a 1 billion gallon per year limit on biomass-based diesel derived from virgin vegetable oil or bioenergy production byproducts that are suitable for use as animal feed. The RVOs for cellulosic and advanced next generation biofuels would be extended until either 2 billion gallons of annual production is achieved or 2037, whichever is the soonest.

The bill would also establish a 10 cent per RIN fee to fund a new Private Land Protection and Restoration Fund in the U.S. Treasure that would help pay for U.S. Department of Interior programs that pay for easements on private lands to keep them out of agricultural production, keep land is conservation uses, and help farmers transition land currently in crop production to other uses.

The legislation includes a wide variety of other provisions, including one that would alter language in the Clean Air Act regarding the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver that would limit the RVP waiver to blends containing gasoline and not more than 10 percent denatured anhydrous ethanol. It also directs the EPA to partner with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a complete review of the implications of E15 and its use, including data the EPA relied on its decisions to allow E15 use.   

A full copy of the bill can be downloaded from Welch’s website.