The Reality of America’s Energy Revolution

When Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard
(RFS) more than a decade ago, lawmakers hoped
the federal fuels program would spur development of
a domestic biofuels industry that would help reduce
oil imports with millions and millions of gallons of
homegrown ethanol – with a particular focus on
increasing volumes of cellulosic biofuel made from
corn stover, wood chips, miscanthus or other cellulosic
feedstocks. By 2022, it was expected that 16 billion
gallons of cellulosic biofuel would be produced, but a
couple of other things happened instead.

First, the U.S. energy revolution happened. Our crude
oil imports fell mostly because of surging domestic
oil production, not the RFS. Through safe hydraulic
fracturing and horizontal drilling, American output
grew from less than 6 million barrels per day to more
than 9 million barrels per day – the growth in domestic
production more than accounting for the reduction in net
imports.

Second, a viable domestic cellulosic biofuels industry
has not taken hold, with only a tiny fraction of the fuel
mandated by the RFS actually being produced.

The fact is, Congressional mandates have failed to
produce cellulosic biofuel and expand the domestic
biofuels industry as envisioned, and our new energy
realities have made the RFS obsolete. It is a broken
and outdated policy. Americans are not consuming as
much gasoline as Congress estimated they would when
the mandate was passed in 2007. That means RFS
mandates could push higher ethanol concentrations into
gasoline than today’s vehicles or refueling infrastructure
were designed to accommodate.