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CATF Statement on EPA’s Final 2020 RFS Biofuels Requirements

BOSTON, December 19, 2019 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) regulations today that establish the volume of biofuels that must be blended into the United States’ transportation fuel supply in 2020 (and 2021, for biomass-based diesel fuels).

“Today’s rule is more evidence that the RFS has veered severely off course. Instead of delivering the climate-beneficial biofuels Congress sought when it passed the 2007 energy bill, it’s saddling us with billion gallons of environmentally-damaging first generation biofuels made from food crops, such as corn ethanol and soy biodiesel,” said Jonathan Lewis, Senior Counsel for the Clean Air Task Force (CATF).

When Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), it established a schedule by which biofuels derived from non-food feedstocks would gradually account for the majority of fuels used to comply with annual RFS mandates. According to Congress’s schedule, in 2020 so-called “advanced biofuels” and cellulosic biofuels (a subset of “advanced biofuels”) were supposed to account for 50% and 35% of the total 30-billion-gallon RFS mandate, respectively. The commercialization of cellulosic biofuel continues to lag, however, putting EPA in the position of once again having to scale back the mandate. Under EPA’s final rule, “advanced biofuels” account for 25% (5.04 billion gallons) of the revised 20-billion-gallon total mandate, and cellulosic biofuels account for less that 3% (0.54 billion gallons).

As a result, the RFS will again be primarily filled with first-generation, food-based biofuels. The expansion of corn and soy acres to meet RFS mandates has resulted in the loss of millions of acres of carbon-rich wetlands, grasslands, forests, and other wildlife habitat, with negative impacts on climate, soil, air, and water.

“Congress must step in to fix the broken RFS mandate,” said Lewis. “Instead of continuing to promote the status quo, future policies should focus narrowly and purposefully on spurring the production of truly advanced, environmentally-beneficial biofuels that can be used to help decarbonize the aviation sector.”