EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson raised new doubts about the Agency's climate change methods this week and created confusion over EPA's just issued expanded renewable fuels regulation. EPA says Administrator Jackson misspoke when she said that corn ethanol emission reductions versus gasoline now qualify it to meet advanced as well as conventional biofuel targets.
Renewable Fuels Association spokesman Matt Hartwig says unfortunately the law is clear that currently ethanol from corn starch does qualify as an advanced biofuel.
"Under that definition and without changing that definition in Congress, it means that corn-based ethanol will qualify as a conventional biofuel up to the 15 billion gallons that are called for," Hartwig said. "But it can not become an advanced biofuel without an act of Congress."
Such a change would allow corn ethanol to compete for some of the 21 billion gallons in the advanced biofuels target.
Hartwig says corn ethanol could have met the tougher requirement had EPA dropped its use of questionable methods to measure corn ethanol emissions.
"EPA's own analysis demonstrates that without including the penalty for international indirect land use change, corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 52%," Hartwig said. "That would meet the qualifications for greenhouse gas reductions for advanced biofuels."
But the law would still have to be changed to cover corn ethanol as an advanced biofuel. Still, the blatant admission by EPA's Jackson that the agency's indirect land use calculations were wrong further undermines the credibility of the method and gives a new argument to key lawmakers trying to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.
Hartwig says Congress can move against greenhouse gas rules without blocking RFS2 and the biofuels investment it will stimulate.
"It can happen at the same time that Congress considers climate change legislation," Hartwig said. "Congress can go in and change the Renewable Fuels Standard anytime it would like to do so. If they deem it necessary to go in and remove the international land use change component, something that we would support, they could do that and still have the program in place."
House Ag Chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and others have introduced legislation to do that and block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.