California Low Carbon Fuel Standard Could Effectively Ban Corn Ethanol

ethanol car photo

photo: Jeffrey Beall

By a 9-1 vote the California Air Resources Board has voted in support of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. What's more, the standard includes a penalty for the carbon emissions caused by indirect land use changes associated with the production of biofuels. When the regulations take effect in 2011 this is what will be mandated:The goal of all this is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California's transportation fuels by 10% by 2020—a reduction of about 16 million tonnes.

Under the regulation, fuels used in California will have to meet an average declining carbon intensity, based on the entire supply chain of the fuel (including greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation and farmland conversion). The baseline is set at 96 grams of carbon for megajoule of energy, declining by 10% by 2020.

Land Use Change Emissions Push Corn Ethanol Past Baseline
It's the inclusion of a penalty for these indirect land use changes into the overall carbon intensity of a particular fuel that has caused controversy: Corn ethanol is already above the baseline at 97 grams of carbon per megajoule, due to a 30 gram penalty assessed for land use changes.

The biofuel industry in general is predictably displeased with the inclusion of the land-use change penalty. Ethanol producers in particular believe that the science behind the assessment of land-use change impacts was not thoroughly reviewed enough, and that other biofuels were not adequately scrutinized for similar land-use change emissions.

It was similar concerns regarding the science behind assessment of land-use change penalties that caused dissent on the Board. Dr John Telles said that he could not ignore the comments of 125 scientists who called the model used to assess indirect land-use change emissions "not good enough."

Prior to implementation of the standard, CARB staff will report back to the board on the indirect impacts of other fuels.

25 More Biofuel Refineries Needed + 3,000 Jobs Created
CARB touts the fact that in order to produce the 1.5 billion gallons of biofuels needed in the state, an additional 25 biofuel production facilities will be required, creating more than 3,000 new jobs, mostly in rural areas.

More: California Air Resources Board

via: Biofuels Digest
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