Op-Ed: Sustain RFS As Important Tool in GHG-Reduction Strategy

Source: By Ernie Shea, Solutions from the Land • Posted: Friday, June 1, 2018

One of the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture is actions that farmers can take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and simultaneously improve profitability. A principal means by which the agriculture sector can help governments around the world reach global emission- reduction goals is through the production and implementation of biofuel technologies that utilize farm and forestry feedstocks.

According to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), the transportation sector is the second-biggest source of GHGs in the world, accounting for more than one-fifth of all emissions.

The GRFA also notes the transportation’s progress in reducing its emissions is among the slowest of all sectors, likely attributable in part to the failure to meet the full potential offered by biofuel technologies, including the use of ethanol, due to poor policies that either fail to offer sufficient incentives to promote their development or put up barriers that impede their implementation.

As GRFA President Bliss Baker recently noted, for the Paris climate agreement of 2015 to be realized, the world’s leading economies – the 37-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – need to drop their transportation sector emissions by 2.1 percent annually up to 2025. “And,” Bliss said, “they’ll need to use ethanol.”

An analysis by the American Coalition for Ethanol of research done by the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory shows that GHG emissions from corn-based ethanol dropped 60 percent over 25 years, through 2015. A more recent USDA report demonstrates the value of ethanol in cleaning up the transportation sector, showing its GHG emissions are about 43 percent lower than gasoline when measured on an energy equivalent basis. Both studies show ethanol’s emission-reduction benefits will only grow over the years ahead, driven by ongoing improvements in ethanol production and improved land management practices.

Other nations are establishing emission-reduction policies based on increase ethanol use. Japan recently updated its 2010 sustainability policy, approved in 2010, to allow corn-based ethanol imports. The new policy calls for an increase in the carbon intensity reduction requirements of ethanol used as a feedstock to make ETBE, an oxygenate additive, to meet a 55 percent reduction, up from 50 percent, and recognizes corn-based, U.S.-produced ethanol’s ability tomeet that goal, even with the higher GHG-reduction standard.