Over the weekend, the Renewable Fuel Standard marked a milestone anniversary – 10 years.
President George W. Bush signed the RFS into law in 2005, and it was slated to last until 2022. As it made its way through Congress, the legislation passed the Senate on a vote of 85–12 and the House on a vote of 249–183. It called for production of 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006, with an increase to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
At the time, Bush said the law would " …lead to greater diversity of fuels for cars and trucks. The bill includes tax incentives for producers of ethanol and biodiesel. The bill includes a flexible, cost-effective renewable fuel standard that will double the amount of ethanol and biodiesel in our fuel supply over the next seven years."
In reflecting on the past of the RFS, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said the situation for ethanol has changed dramatically. "In those days, the American Petroleum Institute wasn’t fighting the ethanol industry with every breath," he said.
According to Dinneen, oil companies found ethanol to be an attractive substitute for MTBE, a petroleum-derived oxygenate and octane enhancer that was contaminating drinking water supplies.
"The original coalition promoting a 7.5 billion gallon mandate for ethanol actually reflected a partnership between RFA and API," Dinneen said.
“The other big difference was that all of agriculture supported the RFS," Dinneen explained, citing the potential economic boost another market for corn could bring to rural areas.
Another industry group, Growth Energy, said the RFS pulled through because the policy provides energy security, job creation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
"Since the enactment of the RFS, we have reduced our dependence on foreign oil by more than half — from 60% to 27%," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "We have created nearly 400,000 jobs that cannot be outsourced and our industry is helping mitigate climate change by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions."
"The RFS is working. It is doing exactly what it was intended to do, with great success," he said.
In honor of the anniversary, RFA released a new review and analysis of the policy. Some key findings, since 2005:
• The number of corn ethanol plants has more than doubled.
• Annual ethanol and co-product production has more than tripled.
• Ethanol-related jobs have more than doubled.
• Though total U.S. cropland has not increased, the United States is producing 3 billion bushels of corn more than in it was in 2005.
• The United States is producing nearly 25 bushels per acre more today due to higher yields.
• Corn prices have nearly doubled their average price.
• The values of crops and livestock have both increased by about 60%.
• Red meat and poultry production is up nearly 10%.
• U.S. forestland has increased and deforestation in the Amazon has fallen dramatically.
• Carbon monoxide and ozone levels are down significantly, while transportation-related carbon dioxide levels have fallen too.
• Though the U.S. still imports more than 40% of its crude oil, imports from OPEC have been cut in half. Imports of finished gasoline have virtually disappeared.
• World food prices have advanced at an annual average rate of just 2%, in line with, or lower than, long-term historical trends.
• Current U.S. food inflation rates have decreased.
Download the whole report on the RFA website.