The Government Accountability Office says to improve the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to determine biofuels' greenhouse gas emissions and define fuels eligible for consideration under the RFS, the Administrator of the EPA and the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy should develop a coordinated approach for identifying and researching unknown variables and major uncertainties in the lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of increased biofuels production.
According to the GAO this approach should include a coordinated effort to develop parameters for using models and a standard set of assumptions and methods in assessing greenhouse gas emissions for the full biofuel lifecycle, such as secondary effects that would include indirect land-use changes associated with increased biofuels production. The GAO report also lists other areas where EPA, USDA and Energy should be working together.
"The GAO has come down firmly on our side of the debate," said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. "There is no scientific consensus on Indirect Land-Use Changes. As we've said all along, ILUC is a concept and a theory – it is not proven, and there is no agreement in the scientific community that if it exists, how it can be accurately measured."
Buis went on to say that Growth Energy agrees completely with GAO's assessment that the proposal to incorporate ILUC into RFS would greatly complicate the agency's ability to complete writing this rule.
Meanwhile the Renewable Fuels Association responded to the report claiming it contained no new information nor did it address the nation's dependence on foreign oil. In a statement, the RFA said, "This amounts to little more than a book report, rehashing many of the criticisms that have been leveled at the ethanol industry from a variety of special interests without introducing any new information. As is the nature of reports such as these, they are out of date as soon as they are completed."
RFA particularly took issue with GAO's suggestion of elimination of the ethanol tax incentive, citing the Environmental Law Institute that fossil fuels receive three times the subsidies that are given to renewable energy.
"The tax incentive has been instrumental in helping to build a renewable fuels industry in this country," said the RFA statement. "It should remain. As long as petroleum and fossil fuel companies that dominate the energy market continue to receive preferential tax treatment and hidden subsidies, incentives are needed to develop renewable alternatives such as ethanol."