Bill aims to alter RVO process, definition for cellulosic biofuel

By Erin Voegele | April 17, 2015

Sen. Jeff Flake, R, Ariz., has introduced legislation that aims to amend the renewable fuel standard (RFS) to require the cellulosic requirement to be based on actual production and alter the statutory definition of cellulosic biofuels to exclude biogas-based fuels. 

Flake introduced the bill, S. 934, or the Phantom Fuel Reform Act, on April 14 and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. To date, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has signed on to cosponsor the measure.

A copy of the bill provided by Flake’s office indicates the measure would require the U.S. EPA to base the annual volume obligation (RVO) for cellulosic biofuel on actual production. According to the bill, the EPA would be directed to determine the average monthly volume of cellulosic fuel produced at a particular facility from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 and use that average to determine the estimated annualized volume of cellulosic biofuel produced at that facility for the current calendar year. The annual volumes for each facility would then be used to determine the annual cellulosic RFS requirement.

The legislation also aims to amend the definition of cellulosic biofuel by adding language that states “the term ‘cellulosic biofuel’ does not include any compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, electricity used to power electric vehicles that is produced from biogas from” a landfill, municipal wastewater treatment facility digester, an agricultural digester, or a separated municipal solid waste digester. Flake’s office did not immediately respond to a request for additional information on the cellulosic biomass definition provision of the bill.

In July 2014, the EPA published final rulemaking that qualified a number of new cellulosic and advanced fuel pathways under the RFS, including those for compressed and liquefied natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal waste-water treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters and separated municipal solid waste (MSW). It also qualified electricity used to power electric vehicles produced from the same biogas sources.

Last year, more than 33.02 million D3 cellulosic renewable identification numbers (RINs) were generated under the RFS. While 728,509 of those RINs were generated for ethanol and 44,168 were generated for renewable gasoline, the majority were generated for biogas-based fuels. According to EPA data, nearly 15.21 million D3 RINs were generated for renewable compressed natural gas, while. 17.38 million were generated for renewable liquefied natural gas.