Monday, May 11, 2009

EPA Rolls Out Renewable Fuel Standard, Lifecycle Analysis

EPA's Lisa Jackson, joined by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, proposed its strategy for increasing the supply of renewable fuels, poised to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022, as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Several issues include, for the first time, some renewable fuels must achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace. Refiners must meet the requirements to receive credit toward meeting the new standards. The thresholds for new categories would be 20% less greenhouse gas emissions for renewable fuels produced from new facilities, 50% less for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels and 60% less for cellulosic biofuels.

EPA also will conduct peer-reviews on the lifecycle analysis of the four renewable fuel categories. Lifecycle GHG emissions are the aggregate quantity of GHGs related to the full fuel cycle, including all stages of fuel and feedstock production and distribution, from feedstock generation and extraction through distribution and delivery and use of the finished fuel. The lifecycle GHG emissions of the renewable fuel are compared to the lifecycle GHG emissions for gasoline or diesel (whichever is being replaced by the renewable fuel) sold or distributed as transportation fuel in 2005.

One thing EPA did not address was increasing the ethanol blend, currently limited at 10%. Ethanol proponents had asked that to increase from anywhere between 11-20%. Refiners continue to raise concerns about commercial viability, product liability and the lack of adequate scientific review with regard to mandated increased quantities of ethanol remain unresolved. They added that the comment period should shed more light on these problems. They also encourage EPA to seriously and transparently consider the concerns raised by fuel, public health, environmental, and engine manufacturing interests as it proceeds toward finalizing guidelines for RFS implementation.

One area ethanol advocates will engage EPA is over the issue of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions related to the production and use of ethanol, especially EPA's calculation of indirect emissions that occur as a result of purported land use changes. Ethanol proponents say the science of market-mediated, secondary impacts is very young and needs more reliance on verifiable data, and less reliance on unproven assumptions. The 60-day comment period on this proposal will begin when it appears in the Federal Register. During the comment period EPA will hold a public workshop on lifecycle analysis to assure full understanding of the analyses conducted, the issues addressed and the options that are discussed. (More)

[Source: Frank Maisano]

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