It may be easy to question now at the height of an American energy boom, but the Environmental Protection Agency had good intentions when it announced the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005. At the time, energy independence seemed like a pipe dream, domestic fuel consumption was hitting record highs each year, and the nation's auto fleet was by no means topping the charts in efficiency. Many experts questioned whether the nation would ever be free of imported oil. Igniting a national biofuels industry could have huge implications if the EPA was successful. What did the country have to lose?
Agribusiness giants such as Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) went all-in on the new corn ethanol industry, using their massive distribution network to supply billions of gallons of fuel each year. Even refiners such Valero (NYSE:VLO) saw an opportunity to incorporate biofuels into their operations and offset blending costs by creating a vertically integrated energy business. The system works (it has its flaws), but refiners and ethanol producers have been butting heads at an increasing rate in recent years. Especially in 2013.
Where is everything headed? Should the RFS be fixed or abandoned completely? The complicated mandate is explained in several charts and graphs in the following slide show.