The government’s proposal to cut the amount of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply would pollute the air equivalent to one million more vehicles on the road. The Energy Resources Center (ERC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted the analysis on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ethanol blending rules.
The findings come in the wake of proposed rules by the U.S. E.P.A. that call for a reduction of the volume of ethanol blended in gasoline as mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a program of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 signed into law 10 years ago this month. If the rules are adopted as proposed, a total of 17.5 billion gallons of ethanol would be blended with gasoline by 2016, 3.75 billion fewer gallons than originally mandated by Congress.
“The RFS has been one of the most successful federal policies enacted in the United States because it achieved exactly what it was intended to do: spur research and investment, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Our work has demonstrated that, over the last 10 years, steady reductions in greenhouse gas emissions have materialized as biofuels became a more efficient, high quality product,” said Dr. Steffen Mueller, principal economist at the Energy Resources Center.
The peer-reviewed analysis was conducted using the GREET Model (Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation) developed by Argonne National Laboratory which examines the full life cycle emissions impacts of energy sources. As part of the analysis, carbon emissions related to the planting, growing, harvesting, transportation and production of corn into ethanol were compared to that of oil recovery and production.
Under the EPA’s proposed rules, conventional starch ethanol would likely be reduced to 13.4 billion gallons from 15 billion gallons in 2015. In this scenario, the analysis found that 4,520,000 tonnes of additional CO2 emissions would be incurred in 2015.
Both the National Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Growers Association expressed disappointment in the direction the EPA has taken.
“It is very curious that some vocal audiences known for touting job creation, a stronger domestic economy, and reduced air and water pollution were largely mute on this significant occasion,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president and a farmer from Maryland. “It is pretty hard to miss the irony of this anniversary-related RFS assessment hitting while the Environmental Protection Agency is weakening the successful legislation.”
“We are disappointed that the same federal agency charged to protect human health and the environment is proposing a rule change that would directly lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ken Hartman, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “After 18 months of delay in proposing new rules, the EPA has chosen not only to shirk its legal obligation as set forth by Congress, but to lose sight of its own mission.”
The EPA is expected to release its final rule in November.