California to Update Land Use for Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

The California Air Resources Board yesterday agreed to update the land use change and other indirect effects of biofuels production under their Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS).

CA ARBThe board is asking for updates to the land use values for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, and soy biodiesel, and other feedstocks by spring of 2011 to implement the LCFS, which currently penalizes corn ethanol to the extent that it would not be approved for use in the state, while sugarcane ethanol meets the standard.

Joel Velasco with the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) says they are pleased that California is reviewing the science of indirect emissions from biofuels production. “As we stated in our comments during the LCFS rulemaking process, ‘the science used in determining these market-mediated, indirect impacts is quite limited and highly uncertain.’ The Board’s decision today to ‘update the land use change and other indirect effects values in the Spring of 2011’ for a variety of biofuel feedstocks, including sugarcane, ensures that as the science evolves, so will the regulations.”

The U.S. ethanol industry has challenged the constitutionality of California’s LCFS and expressed concerns that the state will not be able to serve the needs of motorists without corn ethanol. “We hope to bring some sanity to that debate,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen. “We hope that California makes some changes to the program or there’s a train wreck waiting to occur there because consumers won’t have enough fuel for their vehicles.”

The updates are likely to mean the current ILUC penalty for corn ethanol will be cut by at least half by the spring of 2011, using ILUC modeling from Purdue University. However, California’s LCFS is supposed to be implemented in January 2011, which could complicate and confuse the issue, according to Dinneen. “Why would CARB begin a program on Jan. 1 that is based on ILUC numbers that they now freely admit are wrong and inflated? They have better science and they should use it now—before the 2011 compliance year beings,” said Dinneen.

Growth Energy spokesperson Chris Thorne also commented on the action taken by CARB. “What the Expert Working Group and the CARB staff are showing us with these decisions is that there are grave doubts about the entire scheme of indirect land use change, which penalizes clean fuels in America for the pollution created by foreign producers,” Thorne said.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Growth Energy, RFA, UNICA