A widely unknown piece of legislation with widespread ramifications, the Renewable Fuel Standard keeps rolling on

Aaron Edelstein

WASHINGTON – Kathy Burke was filling up her Honda Civic at the Exxon Station on Wisconsin Ave when she learned about the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the impact a slew of legislation designed to make the country more energy independent could have.


“I think that it’s a little ridiculous that this is how Washington works, where you kind of freak everyone out, weather it’s about the budget or this, that things are going to fall apart, only to save it at the last minute,” Burke said.


She has a point, and unlike a government shutdown, this would directly impact the majority of driving Americans in a very direct way.


She’s worried because the Renewable Fuel Standard, which became the law as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, mandated that a certain amount of biofuels be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. It made sense at the time, most of the countries fuel came from the middle east, a group of countries we didn’t particularly trust in the aftermath of 9/11, and we wanted to be more independent from them.


Seemed like a great plan. It has some issues though, rather than defining the amount of biofuels as a percentage, it mandated pure gallons. In the last 12 years Americans have been driving less, and using more fuel-efficient cars. There’s also been an oil boom in the Dakota’s and Canada, drastically increasing the supply.


This has led to an issue with the blend wall, the amount of biofuels that are put in the gas supply. Currently, it’s at 10%, but if the levels of biofuels continue to rise at their current rate, it will reach 15% soon.  AAA has expressed concern with this, as have many of the car manufactures, who say their cars cannot run E15 without damage to the engines. AAA claims that 85% of cars on the road in 2015 were unable to handle E15 fuel.


Senator Lankford (R-OK) likened the Renewable Fuel Standard to No Child Left Behind, calling it a well-intended policy that “simply doesn’t work”.  The plan was simple, and there have been changes to it. The mandated levels of cellulosic ethanol have been greatly reduced because it’s proven much harder to produce than initially expected, but the overall program still remains controversial.


Perhaps the greatest challenge with the Renewable Fuel Standard though, is that people don’t even know it exists. Burke first heard about it today, and was surprised that something with such ramifications has gone largely un noticed.


Talking to the manager of the Exxon Station in Spring Valley, they had nothing to really say about the RFS, except to ask more questions than they could answer.


This would be a reoccurring theme, after speaking with 5 gas stations in the DC area, none of them knew about the Renewable Fuel Standard or had concerns about increasing levels of biofuels, despite the fuel industries obvious concerns and the impact on their customers it would have.


“I’m all about becoming greener, but this seems like it could end poorly, and I don’t really trust this congress to do a whole lot about it, given that they can’t seem to get anything done,” Burke said, “Sometimes I hate this town.”



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