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The 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS):

COVID-19 Impacts



April 22, 2020


Ongoing COVID-19 ritigation rneasures may impact the Rcenw-iable Fuel Standard (RFS)-a mandate
requiring U.S. transportation fuel to contain renewable fuel. Since the beginning of the pandemic, fuel
demand has dropped significantly. The RFS is based, in part, on projections of transportation fuel use.
Significant deviations from these projections could affect compliance with the 2020 standard. Congress
may consider whether to intervene or whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should
do so; and, if the latter, does the existing statute provide EPA with adequate authority?


The Renewable Fuel Standard

The RFS is a volume mandate scheduled to ascend over time. The RFS statute specifies minimum annual
volume targets. Each year EPA establishes the volume of four renewable fuci categories (renewable fuel,
advanced biofuel, cellulosic biofuel, and biomass-based diesel) that will be required for the coming year
based on the statutory targets, fuel supply, and other conditions. The total renewable fuel target consists of
both conventional biofuel (e.g., corn starch ethanol) and advanced biofuel (e.g., cellulosic ethanol).
Under certain conditions, the EPA Administrator has statuto7y amthoity to approve waive s of the RFS
riqwircmdnts (in whole or in part) based on particular conditions. For example, although the statute calls
for 30 billion gallons of total renewable fuel in 2020, EPA's 2020 final ric calls for 20.09 billion gallons
of total renewable fuel. The 2020 final rule corresponds to an 11.56% annual percentage standard for total
renewable fuel.


Statutory Volumes, Annual Percentages and RVOs

The RFS statute specifies annual renewable fuel volumes. EPA converts the statutory RFS volumes-after
adjusting for any waivers-into annua percentage standards for each fuel category using an equation
which accounts for the projected volumes of gasoline and diesel consumed, renewable fuel consumed,
and gasoline and diesel exempted. Obligated parties use the annual percentage standards to compute their
renewable volume obligation (RVOs) for each fuel category. The RVO is the obligated party's total

                                                               Congressional Research Service
                                                               https://crsreports.congress.gov
                                                                                    IN11353

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