House panel launches RFS review with ethanol 'blend wall' white paper

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee launched a bipartisan review of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard with a white paper addressing the so-called “blend wall,” the point at which adding the required ethanol volumes to gasoline supplies would result in a blend above the currently allowable 10% ethanol limit.

The RFS was originally enacted as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and significantly expanded under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The American Petroleum Institute and American Petrochemical & Fuel Manufacturers have said the RFS’s biofuel volume requirements are unrealistic, and their implementation could significantly increase costs and reduce supplies.

The committee’s Mar. 20 white paper seeking stakeholder input on the blend wall is the first of five that will examine aspects of the RFS and its implementation. “It has been more than 5 years since the RFS was last revised, and we now have a wealth of actual implementation experience with it,” it explained.

“In some respects, the RFS has unfolded as expected, but in others it has not,” the white paper continued. “Several implementation challenges have emerged that received little, if any, consideration prior to passage of [EISA]. Furthermore, the overall energy landscape has changed since 2007. It is time to undertake an assessment of the RFS.”

The white paper’s 11 questions include whether the blend wall will affect prices, if it could be delayed by increasing the allowable ethanol limit in gasoline to 15% or encouraging more extensive use of a fuel blend that’s 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline (E85), and how to effectively avoid misfueling which could seriously damage some engines. Comments will be accepted until Apr. 5.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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