The Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) today pushed back on a National Academy of Sciences report asserting that America will not meet the cellulosic ethanol targets of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman issued the followed statement:
"It is discouraging to see the National Research Council (NRC) miss an opportunity to cast the RFS in the proper light. The most glaring problem is the Council analyzed the ongoing development of the biofuels industry in a vacuum, as if these fuels are not displacing the marginal barrel of oil, which comes at great economic and environmental cost to the consumer. Congress was seeking a sober analysis of the RFS, and regrettably, this is not it."
With regard to the specific findings in the report, Coleman noted that the report correctly highlights two major hurdles to commercialization of advanced and cellulosic ethanol technologies: technological innovation and policy uncertainty.
"The RFS is an aggressive, technology-forcing standard that needs complementary policy to be achieved, in much the same way that oil companies rely on a bevy of tax breaks and subsidies to protect the investments necessary to bring new sources of petroleum fuels online as known oil reserves become increasingly scarce. If we enact policies reflective of the goals set forth in the RFS, the advanced biofuels industry will emerge and the RFS targets will be met. If we fail to enact forward-looking energy policies, we will be stuck with foreign oil at great cost to the economy and the environment. Congress needs to stop moving the goal posts if it expects to build renewable energy economies in this country and get back into the global race to produce next generation fuels."
Coleman noted that the report contained a number of questionable assumptions and statements regarding the environmental and economic impacts of all ethanol. Specifically, Coleman challenged the report's conclusion that the RFS may not be an effective tool to manage greenhouse gases from transportation fuels. "The idea that the RFS may not be an effective strategy to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is regrettable given the published science on the subject," said Coleman. "Even with land use change considerations, advanced biofuels are the lowest carbon fuels being developed in the marketplace; far and away less carbon intensive than electricity, natural gas and even hydrogen fuel cells."
Coleman also directly challenged the assertion that cellulosic ethanol production is only economically viable at very high oil prices. "The statement that the best cost estimates for cellulosic biofuel are not economic when compared with fossil fuels when crude oil's price is $111 per barrel is simply false," said Coleman. "This finding is totally out of step with publicly available assessments released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and others. The members of the panel should push back from the keyboard and talk to the industry. They might be surprised at what they find in a very difficult economy."