Biofuels Development Could Be Hurt By Clashing Policies

Economist says indirect land use change is unproven.

Published on: Jun 22, 2009

Iowa State University Biofuels Economist Dr. Robert Wisner warns that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board are moving too fast in relying on unproven indirect land use emissions impacts for biofuels policy. Wisner believes more research is needed on possible conversion of pastures and forests to crops in other countries to accurately measure indirect land use impacts.

 

Wisner says the contradictory mandates could slow or halt the growth of some parts of the industry. Programs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by EPA and CARB could make soy-based biodiesel and corn-based ethanol uncompetitive, which could cause investors to pull back from building biodiesel and ethanol plants. Investors pulling back could undermine the biofuel industry's ability to meet the federal Energy Independence and Security Act's requirement for increasing biofuels use.

 

Wisner points out that EPA's indirect land use calculations ignore changes in agriculture like longer-term technology that brings increased crop yields per acre that will affect indirect land use emissions. He also believes proposed CARB rules provide the biggest threat because California is the largest potential market in the U.S. for biofuels and at least 13 other states are considering using its standards.