Fuel for Thought

EPA includes waste-based renewable fuels in updated standards.

Through the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given the responsibility for developing and implementing regulations to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the United States, including gasoline and diesel fuels intended for use in highway vehicles and engines, contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel. To further these goals, EPA collaborates with refiners, renewable fuel producers and many other stakeholders to develop renewable fuel standard (RFS) regulations.

Under the authorizing legislation that created the program, RFS regulations originally worked to increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline and diesel fuels to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, Congress directed the RFS program to increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

On Feb. 3, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed an updated rule revising the RFS program for 2010. Specifically, the updated rule sets the 2010 RFS volume standard at 12.95 billion gallons. For the first time, it sets volume standards for specific categories of renewable fuels, including cellulosic, biomass-based diesel derived from various wastes, and total advanced renewable fuels derived from landfill gas. For 2010, the cellulosic standard is set at 6.5 million gallons and the biomass-based diesel standard is set at 1.15 billion gallons.

According to EPA, including additional renewable fuel sources will achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, reduce imports of petroleum, and further the development and expansion of the nation's renewable fuels sector.

From the perspective of the solid waste industry, the new regulations should encourage additional markets for solid waste management companies that are managing waste as an energy resource. Because the producers of renewable fuels will need feedstock for the production of renewable fuels, the rule includes a number of materials that can be used as a feedstock, including:

  • Biogas that includes landfill gas; and

  • Renewable biomass that includes:

    • Yard waste that has been kept separate since generation from other waste materials;

    • Food waste that has been kept separate since generation from other waste materials, including food and beverage production waste and post-consumer food and beverage waste; and

    • Municipal solid waste (MSW) that, after separation actions have been taken to remove recyclable paper, cardboard, plastics, rubber, textiles, metals and glass, is composed of both cellulosic and non-cellulosic materials.

To meet the standard for separated MSW, the recyclable paper, cardboard, plastics, rubber, textiles, metals and glass must be separated and removed from the MSW to the extent reasonably practicable according to a plan submitted to and approved by EPA.

The final rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register. However, a pre-publication copy of the final rule and the supporting documents are available on the Web at www.epa.gov/OMS/renewablefuels/index.htm. For additional information, contact Ed Repa (202-364-3773 or [email protected]) or Chaz Miller (202-364-3742 or [email protected]).

Thomas Metzger is director of communications and public affairs for the National Solid Wastes Management Association. Reach him at (202) 364-3751.

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