GAO Reports Say Renewable Fuel Standard Unlikely to Meet Greenhouse Gas Targets

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is unlikely to meet projected cuts in greenhouse gases (GHG) largely because of shortfalls in advanced biofuels productions, the Government Accountability Office said in a pair of reports issued Dec. 1.

"It is unlikely that the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard -- to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation's renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil -- will be met as envisioned because there is limited production of advanced biofuels and limited potential for expanded production by 2022," GAO said. "The RFS is unlikely to achieve the targeted level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions." 

The report said that in the absence of advanced biofuels, most of the biofuel blended under the RFS to date has been conventional corn-starch ethanol, which achieves smaller GHG emission reductions compared with advanced biofuels.

GAO said that high costs are restraining fuels like cellulosic biofuels from meeting production targets. GAO reported that the amount of cellulosic biofuel blended into the transportation fuel supply in 2015 was less than 5 percent of the federal target of 3 billion.

GAO attributed the shortfall of advanced biofuels to high production costs, and said that "investments required to make these fuels more cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels, even in the longer run, are unlikely in the current investment climate."

The 2017 RFS volumes called for 300 million gallons in cellulosic biofuel and 2 billion gallons of biomass-based biodiesel, less than the Congressional target of billion gallons. 

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