photo: Randy Wick via flickr.
New Environmental Protection Agency requirements for its Renewable Fuel Standards program have been released which raise an issue which has sat dormant for a little while: How to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of a renewable fuel while incorporating indirect land-use changes. The last we left it corn ethanol was on the ropes, not clearing the bar because of the energy, inputs and land use changes associated with its production showed it to be higher than gasoline. Under the new regulations, corn ethanol comes back into the game:Under lifecycle greenhouse gas threshold, as a reduction from the 2005 baseline for the fuel it replaces, a "renewable fuel" must have 20% lower GHGs.
As Greentech Media points out, the EPA now says that corn ethanol will qualify for that 20% limit if it is produced from "new or expanded capacity from an existing natural gas-fired facility using advanced efficient technologies."
The interesting question that Greentech brings up is how much influence the corn lobby had in this change. Certainly the ethanol industry was crying foul left and right when corn was coming into the spotlight throughout 2009. And certainly Big Corn has influence in DC.
Though the EPA says it has made use of "significant new scientific data available to the agency" and "rigorous independent peer review," I have to wonder alongside the original piece's author Joshua Kagan what really caused the EPA's change of heart.
Read more: EPA Issues Renewable Fuel Standards: What it Means for 1st and 2nd Generation Biofuels
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New Study Finds Corn-based Ethanol More Harmful Than Oil-Based Gasoline
California Low Carbon Fuel Standard Could Effectively Ban Corn Ethanol