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RFS 2 Program Overview, Scope, and Implementation Dates


Integration of RFS 1 and RFS 2

RFS 1 was adopted by the EPA to implement the provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (“EPAct”), which added section 211(o) to the CAA.  With the passage of EISA, Congress made several important revisions to these renewable fuel requirements.  In the NPRM, the EPA released proposed changes to the RFS program regulations to implement these EISA provisions.  The proposed changes would apply starting January 1, 2010 unless the EPA modifies its proposal on the effective date.  For the remainder of 2009, the current RFS 1 regulations would apply.  EPA, NPRM, 40 C.F.R. pt. 80, RIN 2060-A081, at 15 (issued May 5, 2009) (referring to pagination of PDF file originally released by EPA).

Separate Volume Mandates for Renewable Fuel Categories

Unlike RFS 1, EISA specifies four separate categories of renewable fuels, each with a separate volume mandate.  The categories are Renewable Fuel, Advanced Biofuel, Biomass-Based Diesel, and Cellulosic Biofuel.  Throughout this chapter, these terms will be capitalized when referring explicitly to the categories that have been defined by the EPA in this rulemaking.  When uncapitalized, these terms have their common meaning.

As mandated by EISA, the rules establish the framework for the expansion of biofuels as a transportation fuel over the next 13 years.  There is a substantial and rapid increase in the mandate for cellulosic biofuels in particular.  EISA increased the Cellulosic Biofuel mandate from 250 million gallons in EPAct to 1.0 billion gallons by 2013, with additional yearly increases to 16 billion gallons by 2022.  The following table details the requirements for the various categories.  NPRM at 20.

Table II.A.1 1
Renewable Fuel Volume Requirements for RFS 2 (billion gallons)

Year 

Cellulosic
Biofuel
Requirement 

Biomass-
Based Diesel
Requirement 

Advanced Biofuel
Requirement 

Total Renewable
Fuel Requirement

2009

n/a

0.5

0.6

11.1

2010

0.1

0.65

0.95

12.95

2011

0.25

0.80

1.35

13.95

2012

0.5

1.0

2.0

15.2

2013

1.0

a

2.75

16.55

2014

1.75

a

3.75

18.15

2015

3.0

a

5.5

20.5

2016

4.25

a

7.25

22.25

2017

5.5

a

9.0

24.0

2018

7.0

a

11.0

26.0

2019

8.5

a

13.0

28.0

2020

10.5

a

15.0

30.0

2021

13.5

a

18.0

33.0

2022

16.0

a

21.0

36.0

2023+

b

b

b

b


a  To be determined by EPA through a future rulemaking, but no less than 1.0 billion gallons.
b  To be determined by EPA through a future rulemaking.

Fuel-Specific Analysis of GHG Emission Profiles

Perhaps the most substantial new development in RFS 2 is the EPA’s attempt to quantify lifecycle GHG emission reductions of renewable fuels compared to a petroleum fuel baseline.  The EPA notes that this is the first time it has undertaken such a program.  It states the following approach to this issue:

The lifecycle GHG emissions means the aggregate quantity of GHGs related to the full fuel cycle, including all stages of fuel and feedstock production and distribution, from feedstock generation and extraction through distribution and delivery and use of the finished fuel.  EISA established specific greenhouse gas emission thresholds for each of four types of renewable fuels, requiring a percentage improvement compared to a baseline of the gasoline and diesel used in 2005.  EPA must conduct a lifecycle analysis to determine whether or not renewable fuels produced under varying conditions will meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) thresholds for the different fuel types for which EISA establishes mandates . . . .  As mandated by EISA, the greenhouse gas emission assessments must evaluate the full lifecycle emission impacts of fuel production including both direct and indirect emissions, including significant emissions from land use changes. 

NPRM at 16.

The EPA’s regulatory role on these issues requires it to integrate scientific and technical analysis into its categorizations of fuels.  Because a lifecycle analysis necessarily encompasses all GHG emissions released and trapped from a wide range of activities in the production and use of a specific fuel, achieving a precise lifecycle GHG analysis for even one fuel is currently impossible, as no scientific consensus has yet emerged regarding methodology.  The undertaking becomes even more difficult when magnified across multiple feedstocks, production techniques, and fuels.  Thus the EPA has been required under RFS 2 to develop its own methodology that it can first defend scientifically and legally, and then implement and enforce.  Given the breadth and novelty of the program, it is to be anticipated that the program will undergo some significant changes after the EPA has received public comment.

The Requirement of Renewable Biomass

The other novel and substantial change imposed by RFS 2 is the requirement that renewable fuels must be produced through the use of renewable biomass.  EISA contains a host of definitions and distinctions pertaining to what qualifies as a renewable biomass.  This is a substantial area of controversy currently.  To the benefit of the algae biofuels industry, algae is explicitly defined as renewable biomass.


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