Created by the Energy Act of 2005 and substantially amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates an increasing amount of fuel from renewable sources that must be blended into the transportation fuel supply of the United States. Starting in 2008, RFS began with a mandated volume of nine billion gallons. By 2002, RFS requires blending 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel. Thus, in a little over a decade, RFS requires the amount of renewable fuel to quadruple. Meeting the targets of RFS would make substantial strides in energy security and independence, and provide the expected environmental and economic benefits. However, biofuels are not free from controversy. Most notably, opponents of biofuels criticize diverting crops from human consumption to fuel production, the food versus fuel debate. The issue has been frequently studied (with opposing results) and fervently debated, while the implantation of RFS and the recent summer drought increased the interest and controversy surrounding this issue. This Essay does not seek to definitively resolve the food versus fuel debate. Focusing specifically on RFS, the Essay highlights and examines many non-food crops and feedstock considered by RFS. In fact, many non-food crops and camelina, food waste, waste oils, algae, switchgrass, and biogas from landfills and digesters. By exploring these options this Essay will show that RFS does not require sound food and energy policy to conflict. Part I of this Essay introduces the food versus fuel controversy. As an introduction to the Renewable Fuel Standard, Part II explores RFS goals, explains key terms, identifies qualifying fuels, and describes the overall regulatory structure. Expanding upon the basics of RFS, Part III demonstrates the extent that non-food fuels can be utilized to meet the goals of RFS. Therefore, part IV concludes that non-food crops hold enormous potential and can play a major and non-controversial role in the energy policy of the United States, minimizing the impact on food policy. With carefully crafted biofuel policy, like RFS, the United States can meet its energy needs without jeopardizing its food supply.
Brent J. Hartman,
The Renewable Fuel Standard: Food Versus Fuel?,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol65/iss2/9