Just over ten years ago, then-President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act, greatly expanding the scope and impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the decade since passage, significant progress has been made towards greater energy security, cleaner air and boosting local economies, according to a new analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association, “The RFS2: Then and Now.”
The RFS requires oil companies to blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels with gasoline and diesel, culminating with 36 billion gallons in 2022.
“A decade after the RFS2 was adopted, tremendous progress has been made toward achieving the objectives of this landmark policy,” according to the analysis, which compares key data points from 2007 to 2017.
Among the highlights:
- The number of operational U.S. ethanol plants has nearly doubled from 110 in 2007 to 211 in 2017, a 92% increase, while U.S. ethanol production has grown 143% from 6.5 billion gallons in 2007 to 15.8 billion gallons in 2017;
- U.S. ethanol industry jobs grew 42% from 238,541 in 2007 to 339,176, with the value of industry output increasing 74% from $17.8 billion in 2007 to $31 billion in 2017;
- The production of advanced and cellulosic biofuel increased 469% from 490 million gallons in 2007 to 2.79 billion gallons in 2017;
- U.S. corn production grew 12% from 13 billion bushels in 2007 to 14.6 billion bushels in 2017, while corn acres planted fell 3% from 93.5 million acres in 2007 to 90.4 million acres in 2017 and average corn yields increased 16% from 150.7 bushels per acre in 2007 to 175.4 bushels per acre in 2017;
- The number of retail stations offering flex fuels like E85 increased 238% from 1,208 in 2007 to 4,077 in 2017, while the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road grew from 6.7 million in 2007 to 24.5 million in 2017, a 266% increase; and
- The greenhouse gas emissions avoided from using ethanol has increased 291% from 12.7 million tons CO2e in 2007 to 49.6 million tons CO2e in 2017.
Meanwhile, the doomsday outcomes threatened by RFS opponents have simply not materialized.
- U.S. cropland area fell 7% from 402 million acres in 2007 to 376 million acres in 2017, while U.S. grassland area has increased 5% from 1,296 thousand square miles to 1,359 thousand square miles.
- The deforestation rate in the Amazon fell 43% from 4,498 square miles in 2007 to 2,558 square miles in 2017;
- The greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soil management, urea fertilization, and liming fell 7% from 278.7 million metric tons CO2e in 2007 to 260.1 million metric tons CO2e in 2017;
- Overall food inflation was 4% in 2007, but 1% in 2017;
- Prices for red meat, poultry, fish, cereals and bakery items, and dairy were unchanged in 2017 from the previous year, as compared to a 3.8% increase in 2007; and
- World grain supply for coarse grains, wheat, and rice increased 31% to 3.23 billion metric tons in 2017, as compared to 2.46 billion metric tons in 2007.
“By any measure, RFS2 has been a huge success, bringing about greater consumer choice while helping to make the air cleaner, stimulate economic activity and enhance energy security,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “As this analysis shows, consumers have greatly benefitted from this vital program. These benefits have rippled throughout our economy and we look forward to even greater success of the RFS for years to come.”
The full analysis is available here.