Senators: Exclude indirect land use from RFS

By Anna Austin | November 13, 2008
Web exclusive posted Nov. 24, 2008 at 10:50 a.m. CST

Six U.S. senators have sent the U.S. EPA a letter stating their concerns with the agency's forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement the updated renewable fuels standard (RFS) as required by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.

Scientists and biofuel industry members have weighed in on the matter. Several groups recently posed arguments for and against the inclusion of indirect land use considerations in the EPA's policy proposal. (See "BIO addresses EPA indirect land use proposal", "RFA releases report denouncing indirect land use," and "Proponents of indirect land use voice opinions.")

In their letter, the senators extend the argument, stating that the calculations pertaining to indirect land use made by the EPA in crafting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the updated RFS requirements are based on "incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions."

U.S. Senators Christopher Bond, R-Mo.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Ken Salazar, D-Colo.; Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Norm Coleman, R-Minn.; and Benjamin Nelson, D-Neb., explained that although they support the expanded production and use of renewable fuels to help America address energy security and climate change priorities, the science and methodology employed by the EPA should be subject to thorough and public academic review.

"Likewise, the premature publication of specific greenhouse gas emissions calculations based on incomplete indirect land use assumptions could undermine the ultimate success of RFS2 and be detrimental to U.S. biofuels producers and farmers, as it will undermine investor confidence and further deprive the industry of the investment capital it will need to meet the renewable targets established in the RFS2," the senators wrote.

The letter also stated that international indirect land use changes based on the agricultural practices and land use decisions of farmers outside the United States, not driven by U.S. biofuels policy, should not be a determining factor on whether renewable fuels are used in the U.S. marketplace.

"EPA's inclusion of international indirect land use changes as a factor in determining significant indirect emissions has the potential to effectively disqualify significant volumes of U.S. renewable fuels production from being used to meet the Advanced Biofuels Schedule in RFS2, thus placing in jeopardy the entire fuels program," the senators wrote.

Concluding that the federal government should move forward with the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for RFS2, the senators recommended that the EPA exclude specific numbers pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions for various biofuel feedstocks, particularly numbers derived from inexact indirect land use assumptions, from the rule.

The EPA is not expected to issue a final ruling on the RFS until mid-2009.
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