Brazil and US Ethanol Spar Over California Standard

Cindy Zimmerman

UNICAIn a court brief filed last week, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Brazil’s ethanol trade association, defended California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) against lawsuits filed by the petroleum, trucking and ethanol industries of the United States.

“With about one in every ten U.S. cars driven in California, the largest state in the country with one of the highest carbon intensities in the world is seeking to do its share to fight climate change,” said Joel Velasco, UNICA’s Chief Representative in North America. “After exhaustive study, state officials have identified sugarcane ethanol as an important part of the solution to achieving California’s low-carbon goals, and our industry is prepared to help meet the challenge.”

Growth EnergyHowever, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis says the Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry is defending a flawed formula that overestimates theoretical “indirect land use change” (ILUC) penalties on U.S.-made grain ethanol – when ILUC itself has yet to be proven as fact. “The foreign interests that would stand to gain under California’s flawed low-carbon fuel standard are rushing to defend it – despite the fact that ILUC is far from certain, and despite new evidence that the California Air Resources Board’s use of a Purdue University formula estimating ILUC was wrong. And that evidence comes from the very university that designed the formula,” said Buis in a news release.

Buis notes that a recent Purdue University study shows that the formula used by California overestimates corn ethanol’s ILUC emissions by more than twice as much.

Growth Energy, in conjunction with the Renewable Fuel Association and several agricutlural organizations, are challenging California’s LCFS on grounds that the regulations violate the Commerce and Supremacy clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The case will be heard on May 26 in Federal District Court in Fresno, California.

POST UPDATE: UNICA’s Joel Velasco wrote in to comment that Growth Energy’s issues with indirect land use change “have nothing to do with the challenges before the court – the lawsuit is about whether the Constitution allows California to regulate its fuels.” Velasco says he was not defending CARB’s ILUC calculations in his quote, “In fact, CARB assesses a higher ILUC penalty on sugarcane than corn — 46 vs. 30 gram of CO2 per megajoule. We just think California has a right to regulate its fuels under the Constitution.”

Ethanol, Indirect Land Use, International