Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated the final rule for implementation of the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). Among other provisions, the RFS will set mandatory blend levels for renewable fuels while implementing a framework for carbon emissions calculations that will be the basis for future carbon reductions from fuel.
“EPA was right to recognize that ethanol from all sources provides significant carbon benefits compared to gasoline,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “As structured, the RFS is a workable program that will achieve the stated policy goals of reduced oil dependence, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship.”
“The RFS is the public policy building block upon which America’s renewable fuels industry will be built. Today’s industry and tomorrow’s ethanol producers require stable federal policy that provides them the market assurances they need to commercialize new technologies,” Dinneen continued. “To that end, EPA has achieved that goal.”
According to EPA’s modeling, corn-based ethanol achieves a 21% greenhouse gas reduction compared to gasoline when dubious ideas of international indirect land use change (ILUC) are included. Without ILUC, corn-based ethanol achieves a 52% GHG reduction. Cellulosic ethanol achieves GHG reduction of 72-130% depending upon feedstock and conversion process. All GHG reductions for ethanol exceed those mandated by the RFS2.
“EPA has correctly credited cellulosic and other next generation ethanol technologies with dramatic GHG improvements over gasoline,” said Dinneen. In addition, EPA rightly and justifiably adjusted some of its assumptions and modeling from its proposed rule to more accurately reflect the carbon profile of grain-based ethanol in the U.S. “These necessary corrections ensure that all grain-based ethanol will be eligible to meet the requirements and achieve the stated goals of the RFS, though continue to shortchange grain-based ethanol’s climate contributions,” noted Dinneen.
Disappointingly, however, EPA continues to rely on oft-challenged and unproven theories such as international indirect land use change to penalize U.S. biofuels to the advantage of imported ethanol and petroleum.
Still, despite the reliance on unproven science, the greenhouse gas benefits of all ethanol show tremendous improvements compared to gasoline. In creating the RFS, EPA engaged in a good faith effort with all interested parties and developed a program that will achieve the fossil fuel replacement goals outlined in the legislation. The RFA has worked tirelessly with Congress and the EPA to not only craft this policy in 2005 and then again in 2007, but to make it a workable program. At the end of the day, the RFS is public policy that can and will work effectively.
Transitioning the nation to low carbon fuel future is necessary to address the concerns of global climate change and provide the kind of economic opportunity the nation craves. Based on sound science and done at a national level, such a policy would provide the impetus necessary for the shift from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner alternative fuels from all sources. Such a goal cannot be achieved through a patchwork of state regulations based upon a selective and questionable modeling. With continued improvements and evaluation, the RFS can and will provide the foundation for such an evolution.