US biofuel makers rail against new California fuel standards

24 April 2009 16:15  [Source: ICIS news]

New fuel rules may lock out corn, soy - US biofuelsHOUSTON (ICIS news)--US biofuels producers criticised on Friday new low-carbon fuel standards (LCFS) in California, saying the state effectively shut the door on renewable fuels made from corn or soy.

The standards, the first in the nation to target greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, aim to cut 16m tonnes/year of greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2020. As approved by the California Air Resource Board (CARB) on Thursday, they are also expected to be a template for federal policy makers as they seek to implement national renewable fuel standards.

But in a blow to biofuels producers, the state will measure not only a fuel’s direct greenhouse gas emissions, but also life cycle and indirect land use emissions related to its production.

Renewable fuel makers said such measurements, which take into account changes in land use stemming from increased crop production, were based on flawed data and would preclude fuels made from grains. 

“This standard is based on flawed analysis and selectively enforced penalties against biofuels only. In unfairly penalising ethanol, CARB is relegating California to more petroleum use as biofuels are the only viable alternative liquid fuel,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

Dinneen said he was “cautiously optimistic” on the board’s decision to review the standard’s measurement methods.

When factoring in greenhouse gases emitted in growing fuel crops, changing cropland to accommodate more grain growth, biofuels refining and fuel consumption, corn-based ethanol emits 97g/megajoule, according to CARB's Wes Ingram.

After measuring emissions from extracting petroleum, refining and vehicle fuel consumption, gasoline emits 96g/megajoule, Ingram said.  

“Emissions from land use changes are real, large and positive,” Ingram said. 

Advanced biofuel manufacturers also railed against the standards, saying they were not applied to all fuel makers.

“We have some concerns about what goes into that model,” Greg Luli, vice-president of Massachusetts-based cellulosic ethanol company Verenium Biofuels, told the board. “We know there are some errors in assumptions. And if indirect land use is so important, why isn’t it applied to all fuels?”

Stephan Lemieux, a government researcher for CARB, said most fuel producers have a much smaller land footprint than those who depend on farmland to make biofuels.

“The story for indirect impact for other fields is that there isn’t a story,” he said.   

Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
For more information on ethanol, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Ben Lefebvre
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