A draft rule that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Tuesday about how emissions should be measured has the corn ethanol industry in an uproar, while newer next-generation biofuel startups seem to be more welcoming of the move. The rule calls for the inclusion of emissions from “indirect land use change,” which could include the impact of farmers cutting down trees or switching crops to grow corn for ethanol. The additional emissions would be calculated into a total emissions calculation that would determine whether specific biofuels count toward the renewable fuels standard.
The draft rule was announced the day before a show of support from the Obama administration for both corn and cellulosic ethanol. The administration held a call this morning with reporters to discuss not just the EPA rule but also $786.5 million in stimulus funds that will be allocated for biofuel research and commercialization and a task group called the Biofuels Interagency Working Group that will work on development programs and policies.
The EPA rule is the most controversial of the three. While many biofuel advocates favor an emissions standard, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Tuesday morning cited an estimate that biofuels only reduce emissions by about 16 percent compared with fossil fuels. Other studies put the number closer to 60 percent, said General Wesley Clark — an enthusiastic ethanol proponent and chairman of ethanol trade group Growth Energy — and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, during a conference call today. Growth Energy’s board of directors includes corn-ethanol companies POET, Western Plains Energy, Amaizing Energy, Hawkeye Renewables, and Green Plains Renewable Energy.
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