Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency were on hand July 10 for a biodiesel training session intended to educate decision makers on a controversial issue that could significantly impact the U.S. biodiesel industry.
Representatives from the Kansas City and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities partnered with the Kansas Soybean Commission and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council to address a proposed ruling made by the EPA that would revise the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS-2). The session began in a soybean field and included a bus tour to a soybean processing facility and biodiesel plant near Kansas City.
"We wanted to be able to show every step of the biodiesel process from the field to the tailpipe," said Dale Ludwig, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. "Sometimes people need to see something firsthand before they can truly understand it. We hope this educational session will help government officials make informed decisions regarding biodiesel."
The EPA ruling calls for indirect land use change to be included in the calculations used to determine biodiesel's greenhouse gas emissions. In order to qualify for use in the RFS-2, biofuels must demonstrate an ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to petroleum-based fuels. Studies have shown biodiesel easily meets that goal by reducing lifecycle carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by 78% compared to conventional diesel fuel. When indirect land use calculations are applied, biodiesel's emission reductions fall below the 50% threshold.
The indirect land use theory is based off the assumption that an increase in production of biodiesel in the United States results in the deforestation of Brazil and other countries to plant more crops to make up for demand. This assumption penalizes biodiesel for the release of carbon from trees that have been cut down. However, statistics from USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service show deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has actually decreased since 2004, when U.S. biodiesel production began to increase significantly.
"There's a great deal of uncertainty regarding the calculations the EPA is using in the indirect land use formula that render it suspect," said Kevin Herdler, executive director of the St. Louis Clean Cities chapter. "You've got to be sure of all the facts when you're making a decision of this magnitude. At this point, it would appear the methodologies the EPA is using to determine the impact of indirect land use are flawed."
The EPA is currently accepting public comments regarding its proposed ruling on the RFS-2. The deadline to submit comments is Sept. 25. EPA requests that comments on this issue be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ- OAR-2005-0161. Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council