Budget Reconciliation Proposal Would Exclude Sustainable Aviation Fuels Produced by US Farmers

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — Though much has made about the potential boon to farmers who could supply feedstocks to an expanding sustainable aviation fuels market, tax provisions released by the House Ways and Means Committee Friday night include what biofuels and agriculture groups say is a “major flaw” that could exclude biofuels produced with agriculture feedstocks.In a letter sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., biofuels and agriculture interest groups asked the Congressional leaders to make sure a final budget reconciliation bill includes the latest lifecycle-emissions data for sustainable aviation fuels made with ag feedstocks.

Last week, Biden administration officials including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack touted the greenhouse gas benefits of sustainable aviation fuels, including the potential for growing ag markets.

The current bill uses what ag groups say is “decades-old” GHG emissions models rather than the latest lifecycle models that show biofuels produced with ag feedstocks such as corn and soybeans have better profiles than originally believed.

“Without a change in these three bills before the House of Representatives, U.S. biofuel producers will not be able to participate in the SAF market, rural communities will be locked out from contributing to a cleaner climate, and our nation’s ability to decarbonize the airline fleet will suffer,” the groups said in a letter to the two leaders on Sunday.

The letter is signed by the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers and the Renewable Fuels Association.

“Numerous members of our respective organizations are poised to produce SAF or sustainable feedstocks for SAF,” the groups said.

Last week the White House convened a group of more than 150 stakeholders including Vilsack who said, “USDA and American agriculture will make sustainable aviation possible in concert with our federal and industry partners and their stakeholders.”The reconciliation package from the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, however, would exclude from incentive programs SAF derived from agricultural feedstocks.

The groups said the action would “ensure that the administration’s vision for reducing aviation emissions and the cited opportunities for American agriculture are not realized.

“Instead, SAF blend stock from Brazil, Singapore and elsewhere will be subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, while U.S. producers and farmers are shut out,” the letter said.

The committees would require the use of a lifecycle-emissions model from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, to measure the carbon intensity of various fuels.

The groups said the model is “inaccurate and effectively excludes agriculture-based biofuels from these federal incentive programs.”

The letter said improvement in biofuels production have been “well-recognized” by the U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET model, which is considered to be the state-of-the-art model used globally to measure life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

“DOE has the best resources, expertise, and current ability to assess lifecycle emissions fairly and scientifically,” the letter said. “Congress should be using a U.S.-based lifecycle emissions model when determining U.S.-based tax incentives.”

The letter said EPA’s most recent comprehensive analysis for biofuels was conducted in 2009.

“It does not reflect or capture the continuous improvement that has been witnessed over the past decade in on-farm carbon emissions reductions or the technology and efficiency improvements in biofuel production,” the groups said.

“As climate-smart agriculture practices continue to improve and expand and as new fuel production technologies for SAF are developed and scaled to market, a regularly-updated LCA is essential to the success of any SAF program and its ability to incentivize new fuels and reduce emissions.”

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com