What a mess this is. Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), American refiners are required to blend ethanol into the fuel they produce, and the amount of ethanol mandated increases annually. But the deadline for refiners to meet the quotas for last year still hasn’t been finalized. In fact, he EPA just kicked the can further down the road this week. Reuters reports:
Thursday’s move was the third extension of the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance deadline, which was originally to have been Feb. 28 and was first pushed to June and then to September.The EPA said the extension was necessary because refiners need to know their 2014 obligations before they can determine how many biofuel credits they may need to carry over from 2013 in order to comply with this year’s requirements.
Did you catch that? The deadline for 2013 compliance is being pushed back because the targets for this year, which we’re now eight months into, haven’t been set yet. This year’s targets affect last year’s compliance efforts because refiners are allowed to use credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), and without a clear understanding of what this year’s quota will be, refiners don’t want to misallocate the RINs they’ve already purchased.This is bureaucracy at its worst. Since the conception of the RFS, fuel mileage has increased more than expected, and people are generally driving less. That makes many of the targets initially set out in 2007 and 2009 unobtainable, because of something called the “blend wall”—older car engines can be damaged by gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol. The RFS lacks mechanisms to adjust quotas to demand fluctuations, which is why so many refiners have been forced into buying up RINs. And the cherry on top of this mess of a sundae: The biofuels being blended into our nation’s gasoline aren’t even green. They’re mostly derived from corn, a process that raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor, without actually cutting down on emissions.This policy mess may be difficult to understand, but it’s clear that something needs to change.