Statement of Senator Boxer
EPW Oversight Hearing on Domestic Renewable Fuels
December 11, 2013
This oversight hearing will focus on the critically important Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS) and Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent proposal to set the 2014 renewable fuel volumes. Congress created the RFS to promote a strong domestic renewable energy industry, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and cut dangerous emissions of carbon pollution that cause climate change.
In 2005, Congress established the RFS program and set goals for the use of renewable fuels. In 2007, Congress expanded these goals and called for the increased use of renewable fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels, which can turn waste into fuel.
The RFS is designed to promote the use of renewable fuels as transportation or jet fuel and home heating oil. The requirement to increase the use of renewable fuels is designed to provide a clear and consistent market demand for these fuels, which spurs long-term investments in this new industry.
Congress also designed the RFS to be managed in a flexible, common sense way. For example, the EPA issues rules to set annual volumes of renewable fuel under the RFS, and the agency also has the authority to reduce the required volumes of renewable fuel below targets set out in the statute.
The RFS uses tradable credits (called "RINs") for each gallon of renewable biofuel produced in or imported into the United States under the RFS. Petroleum companies can buy biofuel and obtain the RINs to demonstrate compliance with the RFS.
According to the EPA, by 2022 the RFS will displace over 13 billion gallons of gas and diesel, cut oil imports by more $41 billion dollars, and reduce carbon pollution by 138 million metric tons.
These are exactly the types of goals our country should be focused on: increasing our nation's energy independence by expanding domestic production of renewable fuels and reducing dangerous pollution.
President Obama has recognized the importance of the RFS in achieving these goals. In 2013, the President said: "Biofuels have an important role to play in increasing our energy security, fostering rural economic development, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. That is why the Administration supports the Renewable Fuels Standard, and is investing in research and development to help bring next-generation biofuels on line."
Advanced and cellulosic biofuels play a very important role in the RFS, and I believe that the federal government should promote their use. This industry got started during one of the most severe economic downturns in our nation's history.
Now, with the sustained commitment to support renewable biofuels, EPA projects that five companies in the U.S. will produce commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol by 2014, and we know that several other companies are working to construct commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in 2015 and beyond.
Today's oversight hearing will help us better understand the current status of the renewable fuels program, including EPA's recent proposal to set renewable fuel volumes.
The Agency has asked for comments on this proposal from all stakeholders. EPA has broad authority under the RFS, and I encourage all stakeholders to weigh in with the EPA to explain what they believe the agency got right and what EPA needs to change to ensure the most effective RFS program.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.