South Dakota Senator Wants to Prevent EPA from Using Land-Use Changes to Calculate Biofuels' Eco-Footprint

corn field photo

photo: Lars Plougmann via flickr

With California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard hot of the presses, complete with its provision to factor indirect land use changes into the carbon footprint of biofuels, the national backlash has begun. Senator John Thune of South Dakota has introduced a new bill which would require that only direct life-cycle emissions could be considered in any national Renewable Fuel Standard:Including Land-Use Changes Would Handicap Ethanol
From Thune's press release on the bill:

Following California's recent decision to use flawed models to estimate ethanol's environmental impact, I am concerned that the EPA could soon apply similar standards that will handicap renewable fuel relative to regular gasoline. Congress has asked EPA to apply greenhouse gas emission standards that reflect ethanol's proven environmental benefits. However, with the EPA's current decision that is pending at the White House, I am concerned that EPA's action could have a detrimental impact on our renewable fuel industry and efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Waiver Process Also Should Be Established
The bill would also require that the EPA publicize the model used to measure lifecycle emissions prior to taking any regulatory action. Furthermore, a process would be established that would waive the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements of the RFS "if the requirements are preventing the industry from meting the RFS requirements, contributing to our dependence on foreign oil, or creating an undue economic burden on the ethanol industry."

If you're getting the impression that this bill has a whole heck of a lot more to do with protecting corn ethanol producers than anything else, you're probably right.

Why We Absolutely Must Incorporate Land Use Changes
Though we can certainly debate the way in which California calculates indirect land use changes into overall greenhouse gas emission reduction of a fuel, and how at the national level they are to be calculated, but considering these environmental effects is ultimately essential if we are to develop fuels which are as eco-friendly as possible.

If acres and acres of land are converted from forest or even grassland into monocropped fields for the production of biofuels (regardless of the feedstock to be grown), then there can be a significant change in carbon sequestration of that land. In some of the worst cases (far worse than ethanol), fuel crops grown on land which used to be rainforest yield a biofuel which effectively has 8-10 times the greenhouse gas emissions as petroleum-based fuels. We need to acknowledge these land-use changes in assessing the environmental impact of any biofuel.

via: Biofuels Digest
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