US RFS changes would result in 1bn tonnes more emissions – study

26 March 2014 15:39  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed reductions in the biofuel mandate will result in an immediate rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to an increase in the use of petroleum-based fuel, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The study commissioned by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) calls on President Barack Obama’s administration to carefully consider the loss of progress on reducing GHGs should the proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) be finalised.

“If future RFS requirements are set along the lines EPA has proposed for 2014, the United States will see increased carbon emissions for many years to come, equivalent to adding several million additional cars to our roads year upon year,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section and the lead author of the study.

”The Obama Administration’s proposal runs the risk of destabilising commercial development of cellulosic and advanced biofuels, limiting their availability as a substitute for foreign oil from unstable nations. These fuels are beginning to come online and they could significantly reduce carbon emissions over the next few years, if we maintain a stable, working RFS,” Erickson added.

In November, the EPA proposed lowering the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for biofuels consumption for the first time, saying that refiners should blend 15.2bn gal of ethanol and other renewable fuels into the nation’s gasoline supply in 2014 instead of the scheduled 18bn gal.

The EPA said that this year’s RFS requirement was being lowered because “advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the RFS in 2007.”

The agency said that under demand circumstances, if it were to mandate higher levels of ethanol blending in gasolines, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E-15 and E-85.

Currently, most US gasolines contain 10% ethanol, known as E-10. As gasoline consumption has declined, the ability to continue to increase ethanol consumption has encountered what refiners call the “blend wall” - the point at which additional volumes of biofuel cannot be used without raising the blend ratio beyond 10%.

The BIO study, which used projections through 2022, pointed to the continuing decline in fuel use in the US as naturally lowering emissions intensity. But the study said that the proposed changes in the RFS would result in foregoing an additional reduction of almost 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions from 2014 to 2022.

Additional reporting by Joe Kamalick

By: Jeremy Pafford
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