EPA Issues RFS Rules

While parts are praised, many have problem with international indirect land use change.

Published on: Feb 4, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency's final rule for implementation of the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard, among other provisions, sets mandatory blend levels for renewable fuels while implementing a framework for carbon emissions calculations that will be the basis for future carbon reductions from fuel.

 

According to EPA's modeling, corn-based ethanol achieves a 21% greenhouse gas reduction compared to gasoline when international indirect land use change is included. Without the land use consideration, corn-based ethanol achieves a 52% GHG reduction. Cellulosic ethanol achieves GHG reduction of 72-130% depending upon feedstock and conversion process. All GHG reductions for ethanol exceed those mandated by the RFS2.

 

Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association, says that EPA was right to recognize that ethanol from all sources provides significant carbon benefits compared to gasoline. As structured, Dinneen says that the RFS is a workable program that will achieve the stated policy goals of reduced oil dependence, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship.

 

The National Corn Growers Association voiced their disappointment that EPA chose to use the flawed theory of international indirect land use change in their calculations.  Also, NCGA is quick to point out that international indirect land use is applied only in the case of corn ethanol, the perfect example of bad science being applied unfairly.

 

At the same time the American Soybean Association says the EPA's Final Rule provides a positive outcome for biodiesel and soy biodiesel. EPA's Final Rule demonstrates that soy biodiesel can achieve significant Greenhouse Gas emissions relative to petroleum diesel. Even with the inclusion of questionable indirect land use variables, all soy biodiesel is deemed by EPA to exceed the 50% reduction threshold needed to qualify for the RFS2 biodiesel mandate.  

 

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says that America's farmers and ranchers are encouraged by the RFS rule, although he said he is concerned by the so-called measurement of indirect land use. He says continuing to utilize indirect land use changes to calculate greenhouse gas emissions is unfair to domestic biofuels. Using it as a measurement of biofuels' carbon impact is still highly controversial and scientifically unproven.  

 

Reaction on Capitol Hill mirrored that of industry. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says typical of most decisions made in Washington, there is some good and some bad in the Renewable Fuel Standard final rule. 

 

"I'm concerned about some provisions that fail to use science-based standards," Peterson said. "To think that we can credibly measure the impact of international indirect land use is completely unrealistic, and I will continue to push for legislation that prevents unreliable methods and unfair standards from burdening the biofuels industry."

 

Peterson, House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Representative Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., have introduce a bill to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The bill, H.R. 4572, also includes provisions that would stop the EPA from using international indirect land use calculations in biofuels regulations and would expand the definition of renewable biomass.

 

Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, John Thune, R-S.D., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb.,  were in agreement that the final rule includes flawed indirect land use models in an attempt to discredit the positive environmental impacts of domestically produced corn-based ethanol. Grassley called it a disservice to America's renewable fuel producers by diminishing their benefit to the environment. 

 

Thune says that Congress wrote the RFS with the intention of elevating the importance of biofuels, but is punishing domestic fuels for land use decisions in other countries.

 

"The Administration remains fixated on their flimsy, untested, and unreliable theory that holds our farmers and ethanol producers responsible for land use decisions made half way around the world," Johanns said. "And there was no mention of E-15."