RFS rollback would undermine U.S. climate goals — industry

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 9, 2014

A recent proposal to roll back federal renewable fuel mandates would undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change, the biofuels industry told President Obama today.

U.S. EPA’s proposed rollback is at odds with the National Climate Assessment, released earlier this week, which called for action to prevent a wide range of likely climate change impacts, a group of biofuels companies and trade groups wrote in a letter to Obama.The proposal would reduce refiners’ biofuels requirements this year by 16 percent compared to the level set by the 2007 statute that created the renewable fuel standard. The proposal would set this year’s targets for ethanol and advanced biofuels below last year’s actual production levels.

“It represents a significant step backward in your effort to confront climate change,” the groups wrote.

Abengoa Bioenergy, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, DuPont, Royal DSM, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, Novozymes A/S, the Renewable Fuels Association and POET LLC signed the letter.

The letter highlights studies finding that adding biofuels to petroleum-based fuel reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of the transportation sector. A 2012 study by Argonne National Laboratory found that corn ethanol emissions are 34 percent lower than those of gasoline.

Reducing renewable fuel mandates would lead to higher emissions because it would lead to more petroleum being used in transportation fuel, the groups wrote, echoing a recent analysis by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (Greenwire, March 26). About 10 percent of the gasoline supply today is ethanol.

The proposal, which EPA says would put federal biofuels policy on a “manageable trajectory,” would also stymie next-generation biofuels that have greater greenhouse gas benefits than corn ethanol, the letter says.

“The question comes down to whether we want to rely more on foreign oil, or more on clean, renewable American made biofuels,” the letter said.

The emissions benefits of biofuels have been called into question by environmentalists and some academics. A study last year by the University of Michigan and backed by the Department of Energy found that today’s life-cycle analyses fail to capture the full greenhouse gas impacts of biofuels (Greenwire, Sept. 26).

More recently, a separate DOE-backed study called into question emissions benefits from producing cellulosic biofuels from cornstalks, husks and other agricultural wastes (Greenwire, April 21).