The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank organized by four former Senate Majority Leaders, on Tuesday released 40 suggestions for reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Meeting several times over the course of 2014 to discuss reforms to the RFS, the BPC's RFS committee said the Environmental Protection Agency's recently announced delay in revealing the 2014 final volumes is an indicator that the program requires improvement.
The RFS, first implemented in 2007, requires that a specified amount of renewable fuels be blended into the nation's fuel supply. Since its beginnings, changes in the energy landscape as well as changes in the amount of biofuels produced have forced the RFS to the forefront of discussion repeatedly, BPC said.
Given the complexity of the RFS, BPC said its recommendations for reform provide an inventory of options that address challenges of biofuels "at multiple scales, across many topical areas, through multiple mechanisms, and over varying periods of time."
The group said that no one policy option contained in the inventory will serve as a single solution to all of the challenges of the RFS. Options must be considered in tandem if they are to meet one or more desired objectives.
"The goal of this inventory is to provide incentive to restart the debate on this pressing issue. Both the legislative and the regulatory processes take time," said Scott McKee, senior policy analyst at BPC. "We hope this will help interested stakeholders explore ways to implement changes to this program."
Among the ideas:
• Expand the definition of cellulosic biofuel, such as by including wastes and residues.
• Create a longer-term period and increased amount of Renewable Identification Numbers for banking and borrowing.
• Mandate that all vehicles are created as flex-fuel vehicles.
• Create an education campaign to inform consumers about new fuels, flex-fuel stations, and which engines can handle which blends.
• Start with mandate levels that more gradually slope to 20-21 billion gallons by 2022, and then consider additional volumes after that.
According to BPC President Jason Grumet, the group will allow industry stakeholders to review the ideas and will later propose an "effective path forward for the RFS."
Renewables groups were split on the BPC's report, with the Advanced Biofuels Association calling the ideas "thoughtful" and "objective" while Growth Energy suggested the ideas push "Big Oil's talking points."
"The RFS has and continues to be one of the most successful energy programs of the last 40 years," Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said in a press statement. " Critics in the oil industry have done everything to tear this program down and continue to push their agenda at every turn. Unfortunately, this report continues to push some of the same, tired talking points that the oil industry has espoused since the program began."
Read all the recommendations and the full report on the BPC website.