In his 2006 State of the Union message, President G.W. Bush famously (and falsely) declared that America is “addicted to oil.” As a solution, Bush proposed to “fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.” He set a “goal” to ”make this new kind of ethanol [a.k.a. cellulosic] practical and competitive within six years.”
Congress heeded the call, and in late 2007 passed the Energy Independence and Security Act. EISA mandated the sale of 36 gallons of biofuel by 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from ”advanced” (lower-carbon) biofuels, of which 16 billion gallons must be cellulosic.
Well, it’s now six years later, and cellulosic ethanol is still a taxpayer-subsidized science project.EISA (p. 32) required refiners to sell 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million gallons in 2011, and 500 million gallons in 2012. Reality repeatedly forced the EPA to dumb down the mandated quantities (to 6.5 million gallons in 2010, 6.0 million in 2011, and8.65 million in 2012). Even those symbolic targets proved to be too ambitious, because, as a commercial commodity, cellulosic biofuel still does not exist.
Nonetheless, the EPA fines refiners millions of dollars for failure to sell this non-existent fuel. Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake has a commonsense solution, H.R. 6047, the Phantom Fuel Reform Act.
Rep. Flake’s one-pager explains the bill’s rationale and how the reform would work. In a nutshell, next year’s cellulosic target would have to be based on this year’s actual production, as estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. From the one-pager: