BPC report examines 40 possible options to reform RFS

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report outlining 40 possible options for reforming the federal Renewable Fuels Standard in an effort to move discussion of the controversial program beyond simply preserving or scrapping it.

“We found a lot of people were laying out lists of problems, and wanted to start discussing possible solutions,” BPC Senior Policy Analyst Scott McKee said hours before the report, “Options for Reforming the Renewable Standard,” was released.

“We’re very optimistic these policy ideas could help move the debate forward to pursue solutions,” he told reporters at a Dec. 16 teleconference.

Since the RFS’s original passage as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and expansion under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, US biofuels production has increased and renewable fuels have risen as a part of the total transportation fuels supply, the report noted.

“At the same time, persistent challenges in courts and in the implementation of enacted laws, as well as significant changes in the US energy production landscape, have kept the RFS at the forefront of energy policy discussions,” it continued.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s continuing delays of biofuel quotas for 2014 and the associated compliance volumes further indicate that improvements to the RFS are needed, the report said. Experience with the program has not led to a consensus on what, if anything should be done as there have been calls to either repeal the RFS or leave it alone, it said.

McKee said the BPC decided to explore possible reforms, starting with an advisory group with 23 members, including 7 from the oil and gas industry, which met three times during 2014. It produced 40 options for consideration by Congress, the Obama administration, and all stakeholders.

“There were several recommendations which generated very robust discussions,” he said. “We tried to channel that into good ideas for further consideration.” The options are not recommendations, McKee emphasized.

“Some policy ideas either weren’t contentious, or had a large base of support. Much of these dealt with implementation,” he said. “Data was one area: Many of our stakeholders felt there wasn’t enough information out there. Another was that stronger consequences need to be in place to make sure EPA stays on its deadline targets.”

McKee said he hopes the new Congress will begin examining options outlined in the report soon after it arrives in January. “I don’t think it will be possible to reach solutions quickly,” he said. “No one option represents a complete solution. They all need to be combined if they are to meet one or more of the desired objectives. We definitely plan to start from Day One of the next Congress and get the ball rolling.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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