The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the renewable fuels standard and how to best calculate the greenhouse gas emissions from renewable fuels. Those rules are now in the hands of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, a necessary step before the final rule is published.
The new standards, which will determine how to calculate those emissions could lay the foundation for how the EPA considers regulating emissions in the future, according to wire reports. A key issue is how EPA will consider the entire production process, including use of fossil-fuel powered tractors to cultivate and harvest crops, use of fertilizer, distillation energy use, soil cultivation and land-use changes.
Congress mandated a the requirement for use if 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2022. Grain-based ethanol is required to have an emission profile 20% below that of gasoline, advanced biofuels 50% and cellulosic ethanol 60% lower. However, how these reductions are measured is a point of considerable contention.
Just determining how land-use changes may be measured can have a significant impact on those reduction levels. EPA has outlined two different emissions scenarios for a range of biofuels and production methods. One scenario favors the ethanol industry, the other would prohibit all but one corn ethanol production process, and would accelerate use of alternative methods including cellulosic ethanol.