Ethanol Blog

RFA Praises Biofuel Provisions in Climate Bill

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Language in a climate bill introduced by Democrats in the United States House of Representatives would make it more difficult for small refiners to apply for waivers to the Renewable Fuels Standard. It would also require EPA to aggressively consider new pathways for lowering the carbon intensity of renewable fuels. (DTN file photo)

A bill introduced by Democrats in the United States House of Representatives to deal with climate change drew praise Tuesday from the Renewable Fuels Association.

There are provisions in the bill that would provide more transparency and set tighter deadlines for small oil refiners seeking exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard. The bill also would require EPA to make quicker decisions when approving renewable fuels that lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act. The bill's goal would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. Moving ahead, the bill would seek to achieve net-zero emissions from the economy by 2050.

The bill would accelerate how much the economy is reducing emissions currently. According to EPA, overall U.S. emissions are about 12% lower than 2005.

While there's increased focus on agricultural emissions and ways farmers could benefit from a carbon sequestration program at USDA, the CLEAN Future Act does not address agricultural emissions. The bill largely addresses the power and transportation sectors.

As part of transportation goals in the bill, EPA would create new rules for emissions from vehicles including locomotives and aircraft. EPA would also move to consider new technologies and pathways that lower emissions in liquid fuels and do so in an accelerated timeframe. EPA would have to take actions on petitions for new renewable fuel pathways within 90 days of submission if at least one state has signed off that a fuel reduces carbon emissions.

In dealing with the battles between the biofuels industry and petroleum refiners on small-refinery exemptions, the bill would set a June 1 deadline for EPA to decide on submitted SREs. Further, starting in 2023, the bill would require full public disclosure on small-refinery exemptions, including the name of the refiner, the number of gallons of renewable fuel involved, and the compliance year for the extension being requested.

"We know renewable fuels like ethanol can play an even larger role in reducing the carbon impacts of our nation's transportation fuels moving forward. The RFS-related provisions in the CLEAN Future Act draft take a step toward maximizing the program's ability to drive innovation and reduce GHG emissions, but more work remains to be done to fully capitalize on ethanol's potential to fight climate change," said Geoff Cooper, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Cooper pointed to a study showing biofuels had already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 billion metric tons. Cooper added RFA will focus on promoting the "climate and environmental justice benefits that renewable fuels bring to the table" in working with Congress on carbon emissions. Cooper added, "In particular, we are eager to discuss the importance of fuel- and vehicle-neutral carbon performance standards that can aggressively and immediately reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector."

The House bill places a heavy emphasis on reducing transportation emissions, the largest source of emissions, with a focus on "substantial investments in transportation electrification including through grants and rebates to deploy electric vehicles and charging stations, zero-emissions school buses, and formally authorizing a Clean Cities Coalition Program," the committee leaders stated.

Republicans in major biofuel-producing states have challenged the Democratic push for electric vehicles, citing such a policy move would negatively hurt biofuels going forward.

In electric power, the bill also sets a federal clean-electricity standard that would rise to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. The bill also goals for energy efficiency, especially in buildings, and invests in a new build out of the electrical transmission grid as well. A $565 billion, 10-year fund would be created to provide aid to communities to reduce emissions in various ways.

Democrats who introduced the bill said the infrastructure changes that will come with the legislation "will grow our economy going forward." Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he expects to hold a significant number of hearings on the bill and added he hopes that some Republicans would join the bill. Democratic leaders said some of the provisions in the bill already had come from Republican ideas.

Still, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., ranking member of the committee, tweeted that Democrats had "introduced their down payment on the Green New Deal today. It's more mandates and regulations that will: threaten jobs & raise energy prices; make us more reliant on China; shutter America's all-the-above energy strategy."

Details of the CLEAN Future Act:…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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