Biofuel Backers Ask EPA to Fix Ethanol GHG Assessment

Source: By OPIS • Posted: Friday, April 15, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 assessment of ethanol’s lifecycle emissions is inaccurate and outdated and should be corrected, three advocacy groups said on Monday.

The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, the Urban Air Initiative and the Energy Future Coalition said that contrary to the agency’s 2010 Lifecycle Analysis report, “the best available science shows that blending ethanol into gasoline has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”

The groups said they have filed a report with the agency requesting that the
2010 study be corrected. They said the request was filed as part of a review now underway by EPA’s inspector general examining whether the agency had updated its lifecycle analyses that support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2).

The Urban Air Institute and Energy Future Coalition argued that reports EPA relied on to assess emissions of GHGs and conventional air pollutants are “woefully outdated.”

“The lifecycle analyses that the EPA and the National Academy of Science relied on have been updated due to technological revolutions in agricultural production and biorefining as well as improved modeling. At every stage, corn ethanol results in less greenhouse gas emissions and air toxic pollution than gasoline,”
Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said in a statement. “As a result, the best available science demonstrates that blending ethanol into gasoline lowers emissions associated with climate change and improves human health. Ethanol’s benefits would be even greater if it were blended at higher levels.”

In its report to EPA, the groups argued, among other things, that land use change and related emissions are much less than estimated and improved yields mean more corn is produced on less land; more efficient agricultural practices have reduced use of nitrogen fertilizers; biorefineries have become more efficient, using less natural gas and electricity, while producing more product and petroleum-based fuels have become more energy intensive, making the gap between the two even greater.

“Agriculture practices and ethanol plant technology are evolving and improving every day,” VanderGriend said. “Ethanol lifecycle analysis was never an exact science, but to be saddled with five-year-old data and assumptions fails to paint an accurate picture. We are growing more corn, with fewer inputs, on less land, and producing both feed and fuel. The carbon footprint of that fuel therefore is significantly undervalued in these studies.”

The report to EPA also notes that the carbon reductions would be even greater through higher ethanol blends because ethanol’s high octane would displace the most carbon intensive compounds in oil which are currently the source of octane.

“The benefits of ethanol go well beyond greenhouse gas emissions. The ‘traditional’ air pollutants like particulate matter, toxics, and NOx are also reduced,” said VanderGriend. “Higher ethanol blends provide even more benefits and we have the ability to protect public health through cleaner fuels.”

EPA is required to respond to the request within 90 days, the groups said.

The Energy Future Coalition was created in 2002 to address the world’s dependence on oil, the environmental risk of climate change and economically disadvantaged populations’ lack of access to modern energy services. The Urban Air Initiative, which targets air pollution caused by the use of petroleum-based fuels, is led by VanderGriend, CEO of ICM Inc., which designs and builds ethanol plants. The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition is composed of governors from 21 states who support increased use of renewable fuels.