BIO Urges Science-based GHG Estimates for Biofuels

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) on Nov. 6 released a letter sent to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson last month, urging the agency to release and seek comment on the methodology it is using to estimate the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels, particularly those attributed to international land use change, as called for in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In the letter, BIO President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Greenwood writes, "Our members in the biofuels industry agree that consideration of direct lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions is essential to identifying truly sustainable transportation fuel solutions. BIO's member companies are confident that if the RFS rulemaking is conducted with adequate scientific rigor, advanced biofuels can meet these standards and provide substantial benefits for the global climate."

The letter notes the difficulty EPA faces in combining data from existing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools that measure direct emissions with immature models that attempt to estimate indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenwood then continues, "If the proposed rule contains numerical results from flawed models published prior to the maturing of modeling tools, it could have a range of perverse effects, including discouraging and chilling investment and curbing U.S. production and use of all biofuels. Without a more sophisticated understanding of international land use change variables and interactions, a rule risks discouraging production of biofuels that truly do reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to energy security.

"Many companies have been racing to develop next-generation cellulosic biofuels and deploy the technology to meet those requirements. There are currently more than 30 facilities across the United States planned, under construction, or beginning operation to pioneer production of advanced biofuels made from renewable resources such as corn stalks, grasses, wood chips, and even trash. The U.S. has invested more than $1 billion in continuing research and in building these facilities, and that investment has been matched by the industry. These facilities represent the first step toward building a large-scale biofuel industry that can meet growing U.S. transportation fuel needs. We need to ensure that we don't inadvertently derail this effort to commercialize truly sustainable biofuels technologies."

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