NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

RFS Did Nothing to Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil or Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

April 3, 2015

The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)  of 2007 sets mandates for biofuels production in the United States and was intended to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The EISA required production of cellulosic biofuels starting in 2010, but the first commercial plants did not exist until 2013, and even then, they could not meet the volumes required by EISA.
  • Smaller engines in boats and lawn mowers are already having problems with a 10 percent ethanol level, requiring additives to deal with its corrosive properties.
  • The energy content of ethanol is less than gasoline, so vehicles running on 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline will generally get 3 to 4 percent fewer miles per gallon than they would if they were running on pure gasoline. That mileage penalty is essentially an additional cost the motorist must pay at the pump.

The problems the RFS was designed to solve are mostly taken care of by the nation's oil and gas industry and a sluggish economy. Further, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study found greenhouse gas emissions will not be lower in the short term due to the RFS. According to the CBO, if the RFS were repealed or if its future mandates were kept at 2014 levels, corn-based ethanol would remain at 13 billion gallons, but American motorists would be free from incurring even higher gasoline prices due to the RFS.

Source: "The RFS Fallacy," Institute for Energy Research, April 1, 2015.


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