The Unintended Climate Consequences of Biofuels Mandates: New at Reason

The U.S. renewable fuels standard backfires



Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump agree on at least one thing. Both support the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which mandates the production of billions of gallons of biofuels.

The RFS was passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and it mandates the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that substituting biofuels for gasoline and diesel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 138 million metric tons by that time.

Not so fast, a group of University of Minnesota economists say in a new study for the journal Energy Policy. They argue that the biofuels mandate is more likely to increase than reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. transportation sector. Why? The rebound effect.