The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an upwards revision today when releasing the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard. They gave corn-based ethanol a 21 percent advantage over conventional gasoline, more than what was originally slated. This new revision also qualifies all corn ethanol, including existing and new production, for the conventional biofuels targets in the RFS.
“While we’re pleased that the U.S. EPA recognizes corn ethanol’s distinct advantage over gasoline when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and gratified that EPA modified ethanol’s carbon footprint calculation to more accurately reflect real-world data, we don’t believe the agency’s overall assessment of ethanol’s greenhouse gas reduction potential was good enough or accurate,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE. “By continuing to apply scientifically indefensible ‘international indirect land use’ penalties to corn ethanol, these regulations seriously underestimate ethanol’s greenhouse gas benefits over oil while completely ignoring the indirect emissions associated with petroleum – for example, the military protection of world oil supplies and oil transportation routes.”
One of the complaints of indirect land use change (ILUC) theory is that it is not based on sound science or real data but simply derived using computer modeling. When ILUC theory is eliminated from the equation, corn-based ethanol’s GHG reductions are significantly higher – 61 percent according to ACE who comnissed the study, “Lifecycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Starch-Based Ethanol.”
Among the key findings of the report: “the scientific literature available to date shows a huge variation in estimates of carbon release from land clearing in general, on the order of 50 percent plus or minus – a huge margin of error that should not be relied upon to make policy.”
Jennings concluded, “America’s ethanol producers are committed to providing a clean, renewable fuel that supports the nation’s economy through job creation and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. The revisions in this proposed rule are a positive step by EPA, but corn-based ethanol must not be unfairly singled-out for penalty based on the indirect land use change theory.”