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January 18, 2022   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Decarbonization is a Team Sport

A robust renewable fuels policy that recognizes today’s value and the future potential for expanded use of renewable fuels is no less important than writing a large $7.5 billion check for investments in infrastructure to boost electric or hydrogen fuel options. If we want to get working on decarbonizing transportation as soon as possible, we need a mix of options available as soon as possible, and thoughtful government policies to match. Afterall, we are all on the same decarbonization team.


It’s a rush to decarbonize transportation. Many fuels and technologies are emerging to compete with both diesel and gasoline, along with a smorgasbord of incentives and policies. Consider government policy treatment of electrification and renewable fuels. 

Four days into this new year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing about the future of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Congress created the RFS in 2005, expanded it in 2007, and after this year, the annual volume requirement targets Congress established expire and the future is in the hands of EPA. The RFS requires certain volumes of renewable fuels to replace or reduce petroleum-based fuels. Oil refiners are required to blend biofuels into their fuel mix – this year the proposed volume requirement is about 21 billion gallons – or purchase tradeable credits known as Renewable Identification Number’s (RIN). Controversy has long surrounded the RFS because of delays in EPA’s timing of annual volumes and administration of a small refiner exemptions from the blending requirement, among other things. 

Depending on feedstocks, renewable biobased diesel fuels reduce carbon emissions by 20 to 80 percent. They are suitable for use in any existing diesel vehicle, engine or equipment in various blend percentages in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Most notably, this all takes place without the need for investments in new vehicles or infrastructure to achieve the benefits. Carbon and emissions footprints can decrease literally overnight. 

In 2020, the US biomass-based diesel and renewable diesel market grew to 3 billion gallons – its highest volume ever – and generated more than 4.5 billion advanced biofuel credits. The National Biodiesel Board projects a 5-billion-gallon capacity in 2023, and their vision for the future includes considerable growth, “Biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable jet fuel will be recognized as mainstream low-carbon fuel options with superior performance and emission characteristics. In on road, off road, air transportation, electricity generation, and home heating applications, use will exceed six billion gallons by 2030, eliminating over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. With advancements in feedstock, use will reach 15 billion gallons by 2050.” 

While the EPA deliberates about the future RFS policy, the recently enacted Infrastructure Bill (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) commits $7.5 billion for installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to aid in overcoming the lack of charging infrastructure for a prospective growing population of electric vehicles. That public policy enables timely planning and investments. 

While some of these investments will go for commercial trucks, charging infrastructure is vastly different than passenger vehicles, making the timing of decarbonization benefits from electric trucks further away from delivering large scale carbon reductions. And that’s depending on many dynamic variables like market acceptance as well as future government incentives and investments. That’s not to say electric trucks won’t deliver, but it is to say let’s be realistic about long term and near-term deliverables on the road of decarbonization.    

A robust renewable fuels policy that recognizes today’s value and the future potential for expanded use of renewable fuels is no less important than writing a large $7.5 billion check for investments in infrastructure to boost electric or hydrogen fuel options. If we want to get working on decarbonizing transportation as soon as possible, we need a mix of options available as soon as possible, and thoughtful government policies to match. Afterall, we are all on the same decarbonization team.



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Key Contact

Allen Schaeffer
Executive Director
aschaeffer@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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