NASEM announces provisional committee for new study on life cycle analyses of low-carbon fuels

Source: By Green Car Congress • Posted: Sunday, May 2, 2021

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM’s) Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST) announced the provisional committee for a new consensus study, Current Methods for Life Cycle Analyses of Low Carbon Transportation Fuels in the United States.

Low carbon fuel standards, such as the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, are major US programs for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation fuels. These standards rely on life cycle assessment (LCA) as a tool to estimate fuel GHG emissions.

However, current LCAs differ notably in how they are implemented, with disagreements pertaining to data quality, modeling approaches, and key assumptions.

The ad hoc NASEM committee will assess current methods for estimating lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with transportation fuels (liquid and non-liquid) for potential use in a national low-carbon fuels program. In carrying out its assessment, the committee will identify the general characteristics and capabilities of GHG emissions estimation methods that would be commonly needed across various types of low-carbon fuels programs applied at a national level.

The committee will include these considerations:

  • Direct GHG emissions over the entire lifecycle of a given transportation fuel, including feedstock generation or extraction, feedstock conversion to a finished fuel or blendstock, distribution, storage, delivery, and use of the fuel in vehicles.
  • Potentially significant indirect GHG emissions, such as those associated with indirect land use changes attributed to biofuels production.
  • Key assumptions, input parameters, and data quality and quantity for application of lifecycle GHG emission models for different regions of the United States.
  • Needs for additional data, methods for data collection, standardized inputs for lifecycle analyses, and model improvements.

This methodological assessment aims to develop a reliable and coherent approach for applying LCA to low-carbon fuel standards.