Cutting RFS would increase greenhouse gas emissions, BIO says

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 - The Obama administration's proposal to reduce biofuel use required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014 would increase emissions of greenhouse gases next year, according to a report from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section and lead author of the white paper, said the proposal could reverse progress on one of the central goals of the RFS - reducing climate-changing emissions from the U.S. transportation sector.

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“Reducing biofuel use in 2014 - while transportation fuel use is projected to increase - would undeniably increase carbon emissions,” BIO said today in a news release. “Increased biofuel use is necessary to continue to achieve year-over-year reductions in carbon emissions in the transportation sector.”

The report uses Energy Information Administration projections of fuel use from 2014 to 2022 to estimate volumes of petroleum and biofuel use for each year. The authors assigned estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from a government model for 2013 to the volumes and added up year-by-year emissions. Based on EPA's proposed requirements for 2014, the U.S. would emit 6.6 million more metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases than it did in 2013, the report concluded.

If EPA followed past practice, allowing the overall requirements to remain at the statutory level, the achieved reduction in GHG emissions would be 21.6 million metric tons CO2e, according to the report. The difference between the increase and the achievable decrease is equivalent to putting 5.9 million additional cars on the road next year, BIO said. Under other available options for setting the RFS volume requirements, the U.S. could still achieve carbon emission reductions, the paper argues.

By 2022, the cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases are nearly 1 billion metric tons CO2e higher than would occur if EPA continued to set the RFS at statutory levels, according to the white paper. “The EPA should carefully consider the impact on CO2 emissions in the transportation sector in assessing its proposed change in [RFS] methodology,” the authors conclude.

In its release, BIO said the Obama administration's proposal could end up destabilizing commercial development of cellulosic and advanced biofuels, limiting their availability as a substitute for foreign oil.

“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,” BIO said.

The white paper was published as a special report by Industrial Biotechnology Journal - part of a series of reports marking the journal's 10th anniversary.

BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the U.S. and in more than 30 other nations.

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