Corn Ethanol Positives in RFS Announcement

Cindy Zimmerman

Corn ethanol seems to have made out better than expected in the proposed rulemaking for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) announced this week by the Obama administration, mainly because it allows the industry to provide more input regarding indirect land use impacts.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is pleased with President Obama’s commitment to the biofuels industry by the creation of the Biofuels Interagency Working Group and they hope that will help to inject more reason into the indirect land use debate.

“In our conversations with the Environmental Protection Agency, we understand that there is a great deal of work that needs to be done on modeling and a great effort that needs to be put into using current and correct data regarding indirect land use,” said NCGA President Bob Dickey. “NCGA will be working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA to ensure scientific data is used.”

Making the announcement about the RFS Tuesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson indicated that corn ethanol will continue to play a role in the development of renewable fuels for the nation. “EISA calls for investments in corn based ethanol, much of it grown in rural America and the Midwest, as well as a swift transition to advanced cellulosic ethanol,” said Jackson. “Working together we can have true energy independence, put billions of dollars back into our communities and create green jobs for rural communities across the nation.”

Lisa JacksonWhen pressed by reporters for details about how corn ethanol fits into the RFS, Jackson noted that 15 billion gallons of ethanol production are “grandfathered in” under EISA, most of which is corn ethanol. “Corn based ethanol is a bridge, it’s an extraordinarily important bridge, but it is a bridge to the next generation of biofuels,” said Jackson. In answer to another question, Jackson said, “This proposal lays out a number of pathways for us to include corn based ethanol” and she noted that EPA’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions calculations indicate that ethanol is “16 percent better than gasoline.”

Regarding indirect land use analysis, Jackson said they are specifically seeking scientific peer review on a number of factors, including “the satellite data used to project future land use changes, the land conversion greenhouse gas emissions factors, the estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from foreign crops, the methods to account for variable timing of greenhouse gas emissions, and the issue of how our models are used together to provide overall lifecycle greenhouse gas estimates.”

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