WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014 - The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released over the weekend says that the “estimates of global land use change (LUC) are highly uncertain, unobservable, unverifiable and dependent on assumed policy, economic contexts and inputs.”
The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), which represents more than 65 percent of the global biofuels production from 44 countries, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) in the U.S., says the report shows the IPCC “has joined the overwhelming number of scientists and academics that have found the (indirect) LUC theory to be faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to predict future land use patterns around the world.”
The report from the UN-sponsored IPCC says nations must make massive shifts from burning fossil fuels, including oil and coal, to using renewable energy sources such as wind, the sun, and, if sustainable practices are implemented, biofuels.
Indirect land use change – the loss of sensitive lands to grow food crops lost by converting existing cropland to grow biofuel feedstocks – was first cited by a Princeton University researcher in 2008. Despite major debate over the past six years among scientists grappling over the validity of ILUC, some regulators often factor it in while determining a biofuel’s lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases.
But biofuel industry groups, including the GRFA, say the “ILUC theory has no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns” and say the focus now should be on “the real challenges to food security like rising crude oil prices and food waste.”
Meanwhile, ePURE, the European equivalent of the RFA, says the IPCC report confirms that measures to address ILUC must incorporate the impacts of ILUC prevention or mitigation strategies, including the impact of forest protection measures, policies and investments to improve agricultural productivity, double cropping, and the use of degraded and marginal lands.
“The report also crucially recognizes that land use emissions can be reduced through animal feed co-products of biofuels that substitute the need for protein crops imports for animal feed production,” ePURE said in a statement. “These nuances are unfortunately missing from the current debate about ILUC in Europe.”
The Renewable Fuels Association made similar claims in its ongoing challenge of use of ILUC factors by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in its implementation of that state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The board four years ago incorporated ILUC in its regulation of ethanol used in the state under the LCFS over the objections of the RFA and other U.S. biofuel industry groups, who say CARB is imposing an undue penalty on ethanol in the state.
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