• Ron Kotrba

US senators seek to oust corn ethanol from RFS in favor of fuels like biobased diesel


A small, bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill July 20 to strip the corn ethanol mandate from the Renewable Fuel Standard in favor of advanced biofuels and biodiesel.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California; Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania; Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey; and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act because, according to them, corn ethanol increases food and feed prices, achieves poor environmental performance, and remains the dominant biofuel in RFS despite the 2007 act calling for more advanced biofuels to take over.

A press release on Feinstein’s website stated that the bill would leave the volume obligations for advanced and cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel in place.

“The federal corn ethanol mandate no longer makes sense when better, lower-carbon alternatives exist,” Feinstein said. “Corn ethanol achieves little to no reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time to end the mandate and instead support more advanced biofuels and biodiesel that won’t contribute to climate change or drive up the cost of food.”

Collins added, “Our bipartisan legislation would eliminate the corn ethanol mandate for renewable fuel, encouraging the development of alternative advanced biofuels to meet our energy and environmental challenges.”

The required volumes under the 2020 RFS—the last year for which EPA has set volume requirements (except for biobased diesel, which is set at 2.43 billion gallons again in 2021), as the agency is late in releasing 2021 volumes for conventional, cellulosic and advanced biofuels, as well as 2022 volumes for biobased diesel—included an implied 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol, 5.09 billion (ethanol-equivalent) gallons of advanced biofuels including 2.43 billion gallons of biobased diesel and 590 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel.

Under RFS, conventional renewable fuel such as corn ethanol is only required to meet a 20 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction compared to petroleum fuel while advanced biofuels such as biobased diesel must meet a 50 percent GHG reduction and cellulosic biofuel a 60 percent GHG reduction.

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