California eases environmental restrictions on corn ethanol

19 November 2010 18:55  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--California will ease environmental restrictions on corn ethanol in 2011, but an industry group on Friday chastised the state for not making the change sooner.

California said on Thursday it would integrate new research on indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol, a move that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) expected would cut the ILUC penalty on the product by at least half.

The RFA is one of the main groups representing the US ethanol industry.

Although the group said the decision was good news for the sector, it expressed frustration that the new ILUC measurement would not go into effect on 1 January 2011.

“Waiting until next spring to make the … changes will unnecessarily confuse the marketplace and complicate compliance … in 2011,” the RFA said.

The debate over ILUC emissions from corn ethanol arose in April 2009, when California announced it had found that corn ethanol provided little benefit for the environment because of life-cycle and land-use emissions.

The US ethanol industry rallied, charging that the state's findings were based on questionable science and outdated data that unfairly penalised US biofuels, which are mostly made from corn.

Had California kept its initial ILUC measurements, which found corn ethanol to be just as carbon intensive as gasoline, the state could have effectively shut its doors on the US ethanol industry after 1 January 2011.

Starting next year and continuing through 2020, California needs to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 10% to meet targets set under its Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) programme.

The RFA and another industry group have sued California in federal court, claiming the state’s LCFS violates the US Constitution.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for 23 February 2011, according to information on the group’s website.

For more on ethanol, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: William Lemos
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