RFS Rules: Bad for Some Biodiesel, Good for Others

John Davis

The new, proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules for the Renewable Fuels Standard has the biofuels community split over if they will be good for the green fuels. The point of contention has to do with the impact Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) will have on biofuel production. Under the new rules, biodiesel made from soybeans has been deemed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by only 22 percent… while it must reduce those emissions by 50 percent if it wants to count toward the RFS 1-billion-gallon goal by 2012. There also are emission goals for ethanol, but existing corn ethanol plants have been exempted; existing biodiesel refineries did not get the same break.

nbb-logo2So, what’s good news for ethanol… and welcomed in that community… is bad news for biodiesel. The National Biodiesel Board was on Capitol Hill today, where Vice President of Federal Affairs Manning Feraci told the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research that the new requirement would seriously imperil the biodiesel industry:

“By statute, EPA must consider significant indirect emissions when calculating a renewable fuel’s emission profile. Unfortunately, it appears that the proposed rule EPA unveiled yesterday relies on uncertain, inexact assumptions pertaining to Indirect Land Use Change in calculating biodiesel’s greenhouse gas emission profile. The result is that biodiesel produced from domestically produced vegetable oils are disqualified from the Biomass-based Diesel program. There are many factors unrelated to U.S. biodiesel production that impact land use decisions abroad. For example, in Brazil, forestry, cattle ranching and subsistence farming drive land use decisions, yet the EPA’s proposed methodology appears to attribute this change to U.S. biodiesel production. This assumption defies common-sense…

“As a result of these dubious land use assumptions, the EPA’s proposed rule restricts feedstock for low-carbon diesel replacement fuel to only animal fats and restaurant grease. Vegetable oils account for more than sixty percent of the feedstock that is available to meet the RFS-2 Biomass-based Diesel targets, and the RFS-2 volume goals simply cannot be met if vegetable oils are disqualified from the program. Even under the so-called pathway for biodiesel that is briefly outlined in the proposed rule, there will not be enough feedstock available to meet the RFS-2 volume goals for Biomass-based diesel. This outcome is not consistent with either sound science or sound energy policy.

Meanwhile, the folks in the algae-biodiesel business seem happy with the proposed EPA changes. Dr. John Scott, chairman of PetroAlgae, released a statement today in favor of the nearly $800 million in biomass funding that will become available:

“This is a good first step toward building America’s clean energy economy, but it’s not the end game. Going forward, two things will be critical: investing in micro-crops like algae that are more productive and do not jeopardize our food and water supplies; and making sure we back solutions that are commercially viable today and sustainable over the long term.”

algae, Biodiesel