Several factors have combined to make it unlikely that there can be enough advanced biofuels produced in the U.S. to meet the rising mandates for that category under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
While there are several advanced biofuels that are “technologically well understood,” GAO said exporters noted that of those currently being produced, “there is limited potential for increased production in the near term.” Plus, several factors will make it a challenge to boost the speed and volume of production. Given those factors, GAO said it “does not appear possible to meet the targets in the RFS for advanced biofuels under current market and regulatory conditions.”
In 2015, GAO noted about 3.1 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of advanced biofuels were produced, falling short of the statutory target of 5.5 billion gallons in the RFS for that year. By 2022, the advanced biofuels target increases to 21 billion gallons, so production would have to rapidly increase to meet this target.
One bright spot in the situation is biodiesel and renewable diesel, which typically fall under the category of biomass-based diesel in the RFS. They are “among the types of advanced biofuels that are technologically well understood, according to experts, and they are being produced in the largest volumes,” GAO said. In fact, GAO said biomass-based biodiesel “is the exception among the categories in that it exceeded its minimum of at least 1 billion gallons for 2015. In 2015, about 1.5 billion gallons of biodiesel were produced, according to EPA.”