The joint House-Senate conference committee considering comprehensive energy legislation has agreed to a strong biofuels package that would double the use of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012. Creation of a 7.5-billion-gallon renewable fuels standard (RFS) spearheads several important provisions for biofuels.

"Enacting this RFS will send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is serious about addressing our overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels," stated Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen. "In fact, implementing this RFS will make the U.S. the leading producer and consumer of renewable fuels in the world. The road to U.S. energy independence is a long one, but this RFS is a good first step."

Key provisions adopted by the conference committee include:

— Ensures renewable fuel use grows by establishing an RFS that starts at 4 billion gallons in 2006 and increases to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012.

— Provides refiners flexibility by creating RFS credits that would have a lifespan of 12 months.

— Protects consumers with waiver language that also does not undermine the marketplace certainty an RFS provides.

MTBE not banned

The gasoline additive MTBE is not banned by the bill, but also does not receive liability protection from defective product lawsuits. The reformulated gasoline (RFG) oxygenate standard is eliminated 270 days after date of enactment and RFG air quality performance standards are enhanced. In addition, the tax portion of the bill is expected to include provisions important to ethanol and biodiesel.

"The RFA commends Chairmen Barton and Domenici and all conferees for crafting an RFS that puts the U.S. front-and-center in the worldwide effort to reduce petroleum use," added Dinneen. "Beyond the energy benefits, this RFS will create thousands of jobs, revitalize numerous rural communities, and improve air quality. This bill is good for consumers, good for farmers and good for the future of America. We look forward to President Bush signing this historic legislation into law."