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Lankford-Requested GAO Reports Prove RFS Standard Is Unrealistic and Ineffective

WASHINGTON, DC – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released two reports requested by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) a year ago on the long term feasibility of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The first report shows that the RFS program is unlikely to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding the US renewable fuels sector. The second report shows that low expected production volumes make it unlikely that advanced biofuels can meet increasing targets. 

On Thursday, at 2:30pm ET, Lankford will chair a Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing to examine both of these reports.

“The renewable fuel standard mandates are unrealistic and have caused higher fuel prices for consumers,” said Lankford. “The RFS mandate is unattainable, so it has led to arbitrary EPA regulations, uncertainty and great challenges for refiners and biofuel producers. The RFS is typical of many federal programs where expectations are not met, yet we continue down a path of federal mandates instead of simply recognizing that the directive will not work. We should repeal the RFS and allow ethanol producers to continue to provide their quality product to the market without the mandates, billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and artificial RIN markets.”

The report also shows that advanced biofuels—fuels that achieve the most greenhouse gas reductions—aren’t being produced at the necessary levels, and they likely will not be by 2022.  Also, less than 5 percent of the 3 billion gallon cellulosic advanced biofuel RFS target was produced in 2015, and additional investments for commercialization seem unlikely.

Highlights From The Reports:

Program Unlikely to Meet Its Targets for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

“It is unlikely that the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector—will be met as envisioned because there is limited production of advanced biofuels to be blended into domestic transportation fuels and limited potential for expanded production by 2022.”

“According to experts GAO interviewed, the shortfall of advanced biofuels is the result of high production costs, and the investments in further research and development required to make these fuels more cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels even in the longer run are unlikely in the current investment climate.”

“In the absence of advanced biofuels, most of the biofuel blended under the RFS to date has been conventional corn-starch ethanol, which achieves smaller greenhouse gas emission reductions compared with advanced biofuels. In addition, further reliance on ethanol to meet expanding RFS requirements is limited by incompatibility of ethanol blends above E10 with existing vehicle fleet and fueling infrastructure.” 

Low Expected Production Volumes Make It Unlikely That Advanced Biofuels Can Meet Increasing Targets:

“Blending of conventional renewable fuels…has nearly reached the maximum called for under the RFS. Further growth in renewable fuels is to come from advanced biofuels… However, production of advanced biofuels has not kept pace with statutory targets.”

“Given that current advanced biofuel production is far below Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and those targets are increasing every year, it does not appear possible to meet statutory target volumes for advanced biofuels in the RFS under current market and regulatory conditions.”

“Current production of cellulosic biofuels is far below the statutory volumes and, according to experts, there is limited potential for expanded production to meet future higher targets, in part because production costs are currently too high.”