RFS2: soy biodiesel meets GHG reductions

By Ron Kotrba | January 19, 2010
Posted February 3, 2010

The final rule for the revised renewable fuel standard (RFS2) was issued by U.S. EPA on Feb. 3, and soy biodiesel comes in at a 57 percent reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) compared to petroleum diesel, making it eligible to meet the biomass-based diesel carve-out. During a press conference on Feb. 3, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, "The ruling makes it clear that up to a billion gallons of soy biodiesel by 2022 is a good investment."

To qualify as a biomass-based diesel or an advanced biofuel under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007-which RFS2 was part of-soy biodiesel was required to meet a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to petroleum.

The National Biodiesel Board noted that EPA's uncertainty analysis recognizes that the GHG reduction for soy biodiesel could be as high as 85 percent.

The EPA also confirmed that the combined 2009/2010 volume requirement for biomass-based diesel is 1.15 billion gallons, the sum of 2009 and 2010 blend requirements as laid out in EISA, which has been thought probable for some time.

Jackson went on to say that indirect land-use change is still part of the final rule, but the models used are "based on the soundest available science," and are "more sophisticated" than previously, and "better data" was available to the agency.

She also said EPA considered public comment and worked closely with USDA to implement a more realistic characterization of biofuels' GHG reductions, and learned its original accounts for crop productivity and yield, for instance, were incorrect. Jackson also said in its proposed rule, EPA only considered 40 nations but when 160 countries were pulled into its indirect land-use change modeling, the "impacts were different and lesser than we thought-we got a very different result," she said.

Jackson said she did not agree with the premise of a reporter's question about EPA "changing the science to fit an outcome" for which there was a lot of pressure being given, and said EPA did not "dumb down the standards to favor a particular outcome."

"Through the public comment process, EPA staff came forward with recommendations based on what we know now, and including indirect land-use change-not excluding it. Renewable fuels are getting cleaner, and there's a real benefit to this country and to the environment," Jackson said.

Ag secretary Tom Vilsack said one reason the numbers were different in the final RFS2 rule versus the proposed rule is because crop productivity is continually evolving and rapidly changing, and technology impacts and effects what happens on land. Vilsack also said there are resources in the farm bill for first-generation biofuel producers to retrofit their plants in order to update the process technology.

"The U.S. biodiesel industry stands ready to provide the fuel that will be needed to meet the readily attainable biomass-based diesel goals established in RFS2," said Joe Jobe, CEO of the NBB. "We look forward to working with all industry stakeholders to successfully implement this worthwhile program."

Director of the National Resources Defense Council Nathanael Greene said, "The final rule confirms that some biofuels reduce global warming and some pollute more than gasoline and diesel. This proves how important it is to put policies in place to make sure public dollars go to support real renewable energy instead of going after options that do not work and could actually do more harm than good." He added that a reform to the bio tax credits and a low carbon fuel standard like California's are "best next steps."

Click here to navigate to EPA's final RFS2 rule.

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