Industry group says EPA proposal will increase GHG emissions

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Biotechnology Industry Organization today warned that a proposal by the Obama administration to lower federal biofuel targets this year will result in higher greenhouse gas emissions.
If U.S. EPA lowers the renewable fuel standard this year, the agency will be responsible for a net increase equivalent to putting 5.9 million cars on the road, the industry group said. EPA’s proposed rule released in November calls for the first-ever reductions in the amount of conventional, corn-based ethanol and advanced biofuels that refiners must blend into gasoline.”The Obama administration’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard could reverse progress on one of the central goals of the law — reducing climate-changing emissions from the U.S. transportation sector,” Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s industry and environmental section and lead author of the report, said in a statement.BIO’s results were published today in the journal Industrial Biotechnology. BIO has previously raised concerns about the proposal’s potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions (ClimateWire, Dec. 5, 2013).

EPA’s proposed rule would require refiners this year to blend 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels into petroleum-based fuels — lower than the 18.15 billion gallons that Congress anticipated when it wrote the RFS into statute in 2007. The agency is sifting through thousands of public comments and is aiming to issue a final rule in late spring.

According to BIO, the proposal would cause the United States to emit 6.6 million more metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent this year than in 2013. The increase would come because decreased biofuel use would boost the use of petroleum fuels, BIO said.

By 2022, greenhouse gas emissions would be more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent higher than the emissions that would occur under the levels set by the 2007 renewable fuel standard, BIO found.

“Reducing biofuel use in 2014 — while transportation fuel use is projected to increase — would undeniably increase carbon emissions,” Erickson said.

BIO based the research on the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model created by the Argonne National Laboratory. Through that model, researchers have found that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent compared to petroleum-based fuel.

Ethanol’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions remains a hotly contested subject, though, with environmentalists arguing that ethanol’s benefits are overstated. A Department of Energy-backed study last fall found that current life-cycle analyses do not capture the full greenhouse gas impacts of ethanol (Greenwire, Sept. 26, 2013).

By definition in the renewable fuel standard, advanced biofuels that are not made from corn reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared to petroleum-based fuel.