Nationwide Renewable Fuels Standard Begins Saturday

WASHINGTON, DC, August 30, 2007 (ENS) - The nation's first renewable fuels standard, RFS, program is set to take effect on Saturday, September 1. Authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the program will require all motor vehicle fuels to contain an escalating percentage of ethanol, biodiesel or other fuels made from renewable sources.

The program grants credit for both renewable fuels blended into conventional gasoline or diesel and those used in their unblended form.

Any party that produces gasoline for use in the United States - refiners, importers, and blenders - must meet the renewable fuel standard. Only small refiners and small refineries are exempt through 2010.

The states of Alaska and Hawaii are also exempt. Hawaii already has a 10 percent ethanol requirement in place.

The RFS program requires that at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended into motor vehicle fuel sold in the United States by 2012.

It also requires the refiners, importers, and blenders to use a minimum volume of renewable fuel each year between 2007 and 2012 - a percentage of the total volume of fuel a company produces or imports. The minimum volume will increase every year through 2012.

For 2007, 4.02 percent of the fuel sold or dispensed to U.S. motorists will have to come from renewable sources - a total of about 4.7 billion gallons.

The RFS is one of the many pieces that will help inform the greenhouse gas regulation that EPA and federal partners are developing under an Executive Order issued by President George W. Bush in May. A proposal is expected by the end of the year.

The EPA estimates that this transition to renewable fuels will reduce petroleum consumption between 2.0 and 3.9 billion gallons or roughly 0.8 to 1.6 percent of the petroleum that would otherwise be used by the transportation sector by 2012.

Carbon monoxide emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment will be reduced between 0.9 and 2.5 percent, the EPA says.

Emissions of toxic benzene will be reduced between 1.8 and 4.0 percent.

The use of renewable fuel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 8.0 and 13.1 million metric tons, the EPA says, about 0.4 to 0.6 percent of the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in the United States in 2012.

At the same time, other vehicle emissions may increase as a result of greater renewable fuel use. Nationwide, EPA estimates an increase in total emissions of volatile organic compounds, VOC, and nitrogen oxides, NOx, between 41,000 and 83,000 tons, but says the effects will vary significantly by region.

Areas that already are using ethanol will experience little or no change in emissions or air quality. However, those areas that experience a substantial increase in ethanol may see an increase in VOC emissions between four and five percent and an increase in NOx emissions between six and seven percent from gasoline powered vehicles and equipment.

The cost to produce a gallon of gasoline is estimated to rise between 0.5 cent and 1.1 cents, though the presence of the excise tax credit for ethanol will result in a net savings for fuel customers at the pump of 0.4 to 0.7 cents per gallon.

The EPA estimates that net U.S. farm income will increase by between $2.6 and $5.4 billion.

To ensure successful implementation of the renewable fuels standard, EPA officials have worked with stakeholders and hosted numerous public workshops and webinars, as well as posted online compliance tools.

In addition, the agency has extended the hours of the RFS Helpline to assist companies with registration related questions. The RFS Helpline at (202) 343-9755 will be staffed throughout the Labor Day holiday weekend from 9 am to 4 pm EDT.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.