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Enviros to EPA: move forward with biofuels GHG standard

Nathanael Greene

Posted March 18, 2009 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Today a group of 10 environmental organizations sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to put a proposed rule establishing GHG standards for biofuels out for public comment. The rule, which are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard, was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2008 has been delayed by OMB. At issue is how EPA proposes to measure the lifecycle GHG emissions from biofuels and specifically how the agency will include emissions from changes in land-use caused by some sources of biomass.

It's hard to underestimate the importance of this issue. At stake is our ability to move forward with any long-term biofuels mandates or market-based policies, such as CA's low-carbon fuel standard. If we intentionally blind ourselves to the full GHG impacts of different biofuel technologies, then we can't tell if we're fighting climate change or making it worse.

Here is a letter from a number of ag state Senators calling on EPA to effectively gut the GHG standard.

And here's the basics on this complicated topic:

Biofuels produced from biomass grown on productive lands compete with other uses of land. As forests and grasslands are cleared to meet the increased demand for land, the carbon stored there is released. Adding these emissions makes some biofuels responsible for more global warming pollution than gasoline or diesel. Fortunately, not all sources of biomass increase the demand for land; some are a byproduct of current practices and others can come from the integration of biomass and food production.

EPA is developing the rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard and CARB is developing the rules for the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. In different ways, both policies are explicitly intended to encourage the use of biofuels as part of the solution to global warming. As part of this these regulators are developing tools to make sure that the biofuels that benefits from these policies actually produce reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to develop a full lifecycle accounting protocol that includes emissions from indirect land-use change, both regulators are relying on economic models. They use these models to look at the world first without the biofuels and then with them; the change in pollution is assigned to the biofuels. While the models are complex, both agencies have relied on the best peer-reviewed science and economics and will update their rules regularly overtime.

CA has benefited from a transparent and science-based rulemaking, and the CARB staff has proposed a final rule for the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. CARB should adopt it without delay at the April board meeting.

EPA has developed a proposed rule and a long list of alternatives, but unfortunately the proposal is stuck at the Office of Management and Budget. The public comment period on a proposed rule as complicated as this is a critical part of ensuring a transparent and science-based final rule, and EPA should release its proposal for comment as soon as possible.

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Comments

Kendall LinzeeMar 27 2009 05:59 AM

It's hard to believe that preparing land for bio-fuel crop creates more GHG's than exploring, drilling, pumping, tankering, cracking, not to mention shale sand oil. Then all the other refinery work, everything else involved, in the delivery of gasoline, diesel and av-fuel. Until it reaches the combustion chambers of our profit obsessed world. This spike in released carbon happens once before the fuel or fuel/food crop is planted, if I'm understanding correctly.
It just keeps sounding like someone wants me to finance a lithium ion battery with wheels.
There getting such a great deal on the labor, they can't help themselves. How long will it take us to convince the Lishen battery company to power up green? Anybody know how much carbon is released when mining cobalt phosphate?? What are the land use models for lithium and cheap labor???
I would love to have faith in the CARB. I'm pretty sure they helped bring about the catalytic converter. I just don't see why it's so easy and legal, presently, to modify your car's engine for more bhp, burn more fuel etc.. While the manufacturer of an obviously successful conversion kit to E-85, (best for OBD-II vehicles) complained to me that they are requiring $50,000 and 100,000 mile test results for CA certification. They run considerably cleaner. I don't need GM or Ford or Chrysler or any auto manufacturer to do anything. They've taken over two decades to bring a four cylinder flex-fuel to the American market. GM is dumping the auto that gets the best mileage on Ethanol. Check out the Saab bio-power 2.0 litre turbo. Only available in Sweden. We get the 6 cylinder because we love to waste.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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