National Academy of Sciences Report Criticizes RFS

National Biodiesel Board sees positives in NAS report; ethanol discouraged by it.

Published on: Oct 5, 2011

A report released by the National Academy of Sciences says that the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates that 35 billion gallons of ethanol-equivalent biofuels and one billion gallons of biomass-based diesel be consumed in the United States by 2022, is not likely to be met. According to the report, even if RFS is to be achieved, it may not be effective in addressing global greenhouse-gas emissions because the extent of emissions reductions depends to a great degree on how the biofuels are produced and what land-use or land-cove changes occur in the process.

However, the Advanced Ethanol Council disagrees. AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman says it is discouraging to see the National Research Council miss an opportunity to cast the RFS in the proper light. Congress was seeking a sober analysis of the RFS, and Colemman says regrettably, this is not it. According to Coleman, the most glaring problem is the report analyzed the ongoing development of the biofuels industry in a vacuum which comes at great economic and environmental cost to the consumer.

The Renewable Fuels Association cautions this report should be interpreted with extreme caution. RFA Vice President Geoff Cooper says global demand for energy continues to escalate, yet this report chooses to focus on the perceived shortcomings of conventional and next-generation biofuels.  While today's report does recognize some of the improvements in biofuels production, it also rehashes many of the well-worn criticisms that have been discredited time and again.

Meanwhile, the National Biodiesel Board was pleased to see the report reaffirm that biodiesel is an Advanced Biofuel. Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, says the board agrees that biofuels must be produced in a sustainable way. Steckel says the biodiesel industry is doing just that by displacing nearly one billion gallons of petroleum diesel this year while supporting some 31,000 jobs across the country. Steckel continues NBB was happy that the report's authors recognized a wide variety of environmental and economic benefits from biodiesel.

Regarding greenhouse gases, Steckel says the report again makes clear there are significant uncertainties surrounding the hypothetical modeling used to calculate indirect land-use change for biofuels. NBB believes the evidence demonstrates that biodiesel compares very favorably to petroleum. In its most recent analysis, EPA found that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57% to 86%, depending on the feedstock used.