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US EPA adopts 2010 renewable fuel standard

5 February 2010

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the revised National Renewable Fuel Standard program, also known as RFS2. The regulation is introducing a number of changes to the RFS program as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).

The Renewable Fuels Standard requires biofuels production to grow from last year’s 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons in 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from “advanced biofuels”. The volume requirements in the finalized regulation are consistent with the EPA proposal of May 2009.

For the first time, some renewable fuels must achieve lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions—compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace—in order to be counted towards compliance with volume standards. The renewable fuel standard volume requirements are set for four categories of fuels:

  1. Cellulosic biofuel—To be classified in this category, fuels must provide a 60% lifecycle GHG emission reduction.
  2. Biomass-based diesel—A 50% GHG emission reduction.
  3. Advanced biofuel—A 50% GHG emission reduction.
  4. Total renewable fuel—The remaining renewable fuel volumes must provide a 20% GHG emission reduction if produced at new facilities (those that commenced construction after December 19, 2007).

The GHG emissions are determined by the EPA as the aggregate quantity of greenhouse gas emissions—including direct emissions and significant indirect emissions such as emissions from land use changes. The emission reductions are relative to the 2005 petroleum fuel baseline.

In the final rulemaking, the EPA relaxed their GHG estimates for a number of conventional biofuels which are now meeting the RFS2 requirements, but were to be disqualified under the RFS2 proposal. In particular, the EPA determined that:

The EPA has also relaxed the 2010 requirements for cellulosic biofuels, set at 6.5 million ethanol-equivalent gallons. The proposal called for a 100 million gallon target, but many cellulosic fuel companies have delayed or canceled their expansion projects.

A combined 2009/2010 target for biomass-based diesel is set at 1.15 billion gallons, an equivalent of 1.10% of the total fuel volume. This target includes the 2009 requirements, as the previous RFS regulation was lacking a mechanism to enforce the mandated volumes of renewable diesel.

The total renewable mandate for 2010—at 12.95 billion gallons—corresponds to 8.25% of the total fuel volume.

The US government has made several additional announcements related to biofuels:

Source: US EPA