Ethanol Groups Weigh in on California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN Progressive Farmer • Posted: Monday, April 30, 2018

As part of the California Air Resources Board’s latest iteration of the state’s low-carbon fuel standard currently up for public comment, two ethanol groups offering written comments point to the success of the LCFS as it relates to corn-based ethanol in the state’s market.

When CARB originally launched the LCFS years ago, corn ethanol’s road into the California market was filled with potholes and detours. Essentially, the state board believed corn ethanol didn’t belong in California because its carbon footprint was a disaster.

Now, there’s a real possibility California will continue to allow in more corn-based ethanol through higher blends.

In short, ethanol industry officials have sold CARB on the updated science that shows corn ethanol’s carbon-reduction profile is far more beneficial to the state than previously believed.

In comments to CARB, the American Coalition for Ethanol paints a picture of a growing market in California: “LCFS compliance data through 2016 show ethanol ranks first in terms of annual growth in fuel volume and credit generation,” ACE said. “Since the first year of LCFS compliance (2011) through 2016, ethanol volume has exceeded 1 billion gallons of annual use in California. Furthermore, ethanol has been the largest single source of credits since inception of the LCFS, including virtually all the credits generated in 2011 and 2012 and representing a majority of the credits generated since 2013.”

ACE said it realizes there is “no silver bullet” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California’s transportation sector. “Rather, low-carbon sources of liquid transportation fuel such as ethanol and biodiesel and electric applications will together play a role in helping the LCFS and other clean fuel programs succeed,” ACE wrote. “However, we oppose special treatment for any select fuel, including electricity and hydrogen pathways under the proposed LCFS regulation.”

“Ethanol is also a superior low-carbon source of high-octane fuel which can help automakers meet tailpipe emission and fuel economy standards,” ACE writes. “We urge CARB to consider the far-reaching low-carbon high-octane advantages higher ethanol blends could provide in helping the state fulfill LCFS implementation and broader goals to reduce petroleum use and reduce emissions.”Currently, E10 is the only ethanol blend other than E85, allowed into the California market. ACE said, however, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory found the use of E25 and E40 cuts GHG emissions by 4% and 8%, respectively.Argonne concluded, “The analysis shows that ethanol can be a major enabler in producing high-octane fuel and E25 and E40 can result in additional reductions in well-to-wheel GHG emissions compared to regular E10 gasoline.”

CARB is considering an update to the LCFS to require fuel carbon intensity reduction to 20% below 2010 levels.

The Renewable Fuels Association said in comments to CARB that data shows ethanol is responsible for reducing GHG emissions by 14.5 million metric tons, or 45% of the total reductions achieved in the LCFS to date.

CARB released data this week that shows ethanol used in California has an average carbon intensity that is 31% lower than gasoline.

The RFA asked CARB to expedite approval of new pathways for cellulosic ethanol produced from grain kernel fiber. In addition, the group asked the state to amend current regulations to allow for the sale of E15, to accelerate GHG reduction.

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