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Administration Announces RFS2 Regulations
by Kristin Brekke

Two announcements made in our nation’s capital on February 3 will have an impact on the future of the biofuels industry in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final rule for the Renewable Fuels Standard 2, as contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In addition, the Administration released a 10-page report titled “Growing America’s Fuel.”

Both were discussed in a conference call that afternoon hosted by the heads of the departments involved in the new Biofuels Interagency Working Group (BIWG) established last May by President Obama. U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack all participated in the call.

The EPA regulations state that corn-based ethanol provides a 21 percent advantage over conventional gasoline, a revision upward by the Agency and a recognition by EPA that ethanol’s greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon-intensity is less than it previously assumed. This means that all corn ethanol – existing grandfathered capacity as well as new production – will qualify toward the conventional biofuels targets in the RFS.

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the nation’s largest ethanol advocacy association, is pleased with the better numbers being used by the Agency but remains disappointed that the theory of “international indirect land use change” remains in the calculations.

“While we’re pleased that the U.S. EPA recognizes corn ethanol’s distinct advantage over gasoline when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and gratified that EPA modified ethanol's carbon footprint calculation to more accurately reflect real-world data, we don’t believe the agency’s overall assessment of ethanol’s greenhouse gas reduction potential was good enough or accurate,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE. “By continuing to apply scientifically indefensible ‘international indirect land use’ penalties to corn ethanol, these regulations seriously underestimate ethanol's greenhouse gas benefits over oil while completely ignoring the indirect emissions associated with petroleum – for example, the military protection of world oil supplies and oil transportation routes.”

The international indirect land use change (ILUC) theory is based solely on computer modeling and is not corroborated by on-the-ground data. When the ILUC theory is removed from the equation, corn ethanol’s direct-effect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represent a 61 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to gasoline.

Several studies and reviews of ILUC dispute that this theory is ready to be applied to public policy. In an effort to better understand lifecycle analysis and indirect effects, ACE commissioned a study by Global Insight, “Lifecycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Starch-Based Ethanol.” Among the key findings of the report: “the scientific literature available to date shows a huge variation in estimates of carbon release from land clearing in general, on the order of 50 percent plus or minus – a huge margin of error that should not be relied upon to make policy.”

“America’s ethanol producers are committed to providing a clean, renewable fuel that supports the nation’s economy through job creation and reduces our dependence on foreign oil,” Jennings said. “The revisions in this proposed rule are a positive step by EPA, but corn-based ethanol must not be unfairly singled-out for penalty based on the indirect land use change theory.”

The Administration’s “Growing America’s Fuel” report outlines a future strategy to meet biofuels production targets. ACE supports the focus on biofuels production targets, but would like to see great attention added on the distribution and use of the renewable fuels in the marketplace.

“We welcome this new vision focused on biofuels production targets, and we encourage equal if not greater attention on distribution and creating long-term, sustainable demand for today’s corn ethanol and the next generation of biofuels,” Jennings said. “Approving the pending E15 waiver request, requiring the production of more Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), and providing incentives for the installation of blender pumps to dispense midlevel ethanol blends all need to occur if we are to ensure that both corn ethanol and the next generation of biofuels can make good on their promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Corn ethanol is here now as the only viable alternative to petroleum-based gasoline; instead of focusing on how existing infrastructure can use unproven and non-commercial products such as ‘green gasoline,’ we need a vision that helps ensure today’s supply of corn ethanol can be used to greater degrees in today’s infrastructure and distribution system,” Jennings added. “To that end, ACE calls on the Administration to endorse S. 1627, the Consumer Fuels and Vehicles Choice Act, introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Lugar (R-IN). If enacted, this legislation would immediately allow additional supplies of cost-effective biofuels to be used across the United States.”

See the advocacy feature on page 16 to learn more about how you can help get this message to our leaders in Washington.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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