On April 21, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the initial installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). This first installment focuses on ways to modernize the U.S. energy infrastructure to increase the country's energy competitiveness and security. In its QER, DOE points out that while U.S. biofuel production has increased significantly over the past decade -- due largely to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) --'[c]ontinued growth in ethanol use will depend in part on investment in additional distribution capacity; growth in the use of other biofuels, such as 'drop-in' fuels, will depend on continued investment in research, development, demonstration, and deployment.' In its fact sheet accompanying the QER, the DOE states that it, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, should continue efforts to help facilitate the production and use of advanced, drop-in biofuels for use in aviation and large vehicles. Moreover, DOE should provide technical support to help investment in infrastructure to dispense higher-level ethanol blends.
The QER, and its recommendations with respect to infrastructure to support the distribution of ethanol, comes at a time when RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) release of its final 2014 RFS renewable volume obligations (RVO), or volume requirements. Several biofuels groups expressed opposition to EPA's proposed 2014 RVOs because the proposed reduced RVOs for corn ethanol were based partly on EPA's determination of currently insufficient distribution infrastructure. The biofuels groups opposed to this analysis argued that infrastructure considerations should not go into EPA's calculation of its annual RFS requirements.