|The new Renewable Fuel Standard in the energy bill calls for a rapid acceleration in the production of cellulosic biofuels (red), and a capping of corn ethanol at 15 billion gallons per year. Click to enlarge.|
By a 314 to 100 vote, the US House of Representatives passed the energy bill (H.R.6) that had come back from the Senate, thereby sending the package of programs to the White House. President Bush has indicated that he will sign the bill into law before the end of the year.
In addition to raising CAFE standards to an average 35 mpg by 2020 (earlier post), the bill also contains some provisions that provide a major increase in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS); the electrification of transportation; improved standards for appliances and lighting; energy savings in buildings and industry; energy savings in government and public institutions; support for research into solar, geothermal, marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies, and energy storage for transportation and electric power; research, development and demonstration of carbon capture and sequestration; the modernization of the electric grid; and a variety of other initiatives.
|The components of the RFS. Click to enlarge.|
Renewable Fuel Standard. The bill deals with four primary categories of renewable fuel: conventional biofuel—ethanol produced from corn starch; cellulosic biofuels; biomass-based diesel (which includes biodiesel—fatty acid methyl esters); and other advanced biofuels.
Under the bill, the RFS increases to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Of that, corn ethanol production is capped at 15 billion gallons per year starting in 2015; the remainder is expected provided by “advanced biofuels”, the majority of which are cellulosic biofuels. In the final year of the standard (2022), cellulosic biofuels contribute more (16 billion gallons) than does corn ethanol (15 billion gallons).
The bill assigns minimum lifecycle greenhouse gas improvements, measured against a baseline of the lifecycle emissions from gasoline or diesel (whichever is being replaced) on sale in 2005. The minimum GHG improvement is 20%; biomass-based diesel must deliver a 50% GHG improvement, and cellulosic biofuels must deliver a 60% improvement in lifecycle GHG emissions.
The bill defines “Advanced Biofuels” as renewable fuel, other than ethanol derived from corn starch, including:
Ethanol produced from cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin;
Ethanol derived from sugar other than from corn starch;
Ethanol derived from waste materials, including crop residue;
Butanol or other alcohols produced via conversion of organic materials;
Biogas (including landfill gas and sewage waste treatment gas) produced through the conversion of organic matter from renewable biomass; and
Other fuels derived from cellulosic biomass.
The RFS provides significant allowances for adjustments and revisions based on determination of the Administrator of the EPA. For example, the Administrator can reduce the percentage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions specified in the bill by up to 10 percentage points for each category if he or she determines that the reduction is not commercially feasible.
As another example, if the production of cellulosic biofuel is projected to be less than that required by the RFS, the Administrator can reduce the applicable volume in the standard.
The bill requires the DOE, USDA, and EPA to engage the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study to assess the impact of the RFS on feed grains; livestock; food; forest products; and energy.
It also requires DOE, DOT and EPA to study the optimization of flexible fuel vehicles to determine what fuel efficiencies could exist when operating on E85. The bill also requires a study on the effects of different levels of biodiesel blends (B5, B10, B20, B30 and B100) on engine and engine systems performance and durability.
Should ASTM no have established a standard for B20 biodiesel within a year following the enactment of the bill, the Administrator of the EPA is tasked to initiate a rulemaking to establish a uniform per gallon fuel standard for such a fuel.
The bill authorizes the appropriation of $500 million for the period of fiscal years 2008 through 2015 for grants to encourage the production of advanced biofuels. A project much achieve at least an 80% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions to be eligible for such a grant.
The bill also requires a report to Congress on any research and development challenges inherent in increasing the biodiesel and biogas components of the fuel pool in the US. Another required report will update Congress on the status of the R&D on the use of algae as a feedstock for biofuels.
Other aspects of the bill touch on the development of a biofuel refueling infrastructure, an ethanol pipeline feasibility study, and transportation of renewable fuel via railroad and other modes of transportation.