The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual renewable fuel volume requirements, which set the amount of fuel derived from renewable resources that must be mixed into the nation’s supply of gasoline and diesel. The volumes act as the implementation mechanism for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a misguided congressionally-mandated policy enacted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act to spur renewable fuel production. In practice, the RFS has been propping up the mature corn ethanol industry since 2007, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in fuel and food price increases. The bill also established several supports for advanced biofuels, including the renewable diesel and biofuels infrastructure tax credits, but more importantly, it was the first time the U.S. mandated consumption of renewable fuels.

In light of the continuation of this broken policy initiative, TCS is releasing updates to its report titled Federal Subsidies for Biofuels and Biomass Energy detailing the numerous mechanisms the federal government is currently employing in support of the biofuels industry at the expense of taxpayers. TCS is also releasing an updated fact sheet Federal Subsidies for Corn Ethanol and Other Corn-Based Biofuels.

Domestic biofuels policy is primarily supported by three major pieces of legislation: the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and the farm bill. Annual tax credits are also renewed in various tax extender packages, often tied to other legislation. The first RFS required 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended with gasoline or diesel by 2012. In the 2007 energy bill, requirements were increased to 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be consumed by 2022.

The increased requirements, referred to as the RFS2, set new target volumes for certain types of biofuels under the total amount to be blended into fuel each year. However, given lower than anticipated actual production of cellulosic and advanced biofuels, those requirements have been adjusted downward via EPA’s annual volume determinations (see Table 1 below). Despite the reduction in mandated fuel levels since 2014, advanced biofuels have remained unable to fulfil adjusted volumes, allowing corn ethanol to enjoy the lion’s share of the mandate.

A Year Later: The Blackjewel Bankruptcy

The 2018 volume requirements raise the cellulosic biofuel mandate by only 50 million gallons to 361 million gallons. For comparison, the 2007 energy bill originally set the cellulosic biofuel target at 7 billion gallons for 2018. The 361 million gallons also make up less than two percent of the total RFS mandated volume of 19.29 billion gallons of bio-based fuels for calendar year 2018, the vast majority of which will be comprised of corn based fuels.


Table 1: Total Gallons of Renewable Fuel that Must be Blended with U.S. Motor Fuel in the Renewable Fuel Standard

Year Billions of Gallons/Year Mandated by the RFS2 Actual Volume in Billions of Gallons/Year, as Adjusted by EPA
2010 12.95 12.95[i]
2011 13.95 13.95[ii]
2012 15.2 15.2[iii]
2013 16.55 16.55[iv]
2014 18.15 16.28[v]
2015 20.50 16.93[vi]
2016 22.25 18.11[vii]
2017 24 19.28[viii]
2018 26 19.29[ix]
2019 28
2020 30
2021 33
2022 36


For more information on government handouts to the biofuels industry and the burden they place on taxpayers see our updated products: Federal Subsidies for Corn Ethanol and Other Corn-Based Biofuels; and Federal Subsidies for Biofuels and Biomass Energy.