Yesterday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee released the first in a series of bipartisan white papers on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS is the primary federal policy mandating the use of renewable fuels in the transportation sector. The program has come under increased scrutiny over a number of issues including slow commercialization of cellulosic biofuels, fraud in the compliance aspect of the program, and broader transportation fuel issues like the ethanol blend wall. The program can also point to its successes, such as biomass-based diesel production. Supporters and opponents are following these issues closely as a range of legislative options have been introduced over the last few years to amend or repeal the program.

The topic of this first white paper is the blend wall and fuel compatibility issues. The blend wall refers to the point at which the transportation fuel pool can no longer absorb any more ethanol. E10, or 10 percent ethanol, is the current blend wall and is commonly sold across the country. The EPA has issued a waiver for the sale of E15, or 15 percent ethanol, which was approved for vehicles manufactured in 2001 or newer. Because newer, more fuel efficient vehicles are using less fuel our overall fuel consumption is declining. Given the increasing mandates to use more ethanol, we are rapidly approaching this blend wall and there are several options available to address this public policy issue.

The RFS impacts industries from traditional oil and gas to agriculture and food production. RFS stakeholders are encouraged to review the Committee white paper and take advantage of the opportunity to comment on this bipartisan product. Moreover, the House is expected to hold hearings on the matter later this year and the Senate is also contemplating similar activity on RFS, both of which may present additional opportunities to positively impact this issue.