Research to begin on lifecycle impacts of RFS

By Holly Jessen | October 16, 2015

An internal department of the U.S. EPA will research lifecycle impacts of the renewable fuel standard (RFS), to determine if the EPA complied with reporting requirements and updated the RFS lifecycle analysis information with more recent studies on biofuels.

The Renewable Fuels Association said in an Oct. 16 statement that the review was welcome. The RFA has been asking the EPA to update its analysis of the RFS’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions for years and believes this move will result in a clearer picture of the environmental benefits of ethanol, said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Lifecycle analyses conducted by the Department of Energy and others since the final RFS rule was implemented have shown that grain ethanol produced today reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared to fossil fuels — even when hypothetical land use emissions are taken into account,”  Dinneen said. “And, the EPA has recently approved nearly 50 petitions from grain ethanol producers for its efficient producer program, with each petition requiring careful lifecycle analysis based on actual production data. These results show that the RFS is doing what it was intended to do, and is a potent weapon in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Specifically, a memorandum posted online Oct. 15, notifies Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, that the Office of Inspector General will begin preliminary research on lifecycle impacts of the RFS. “The anticipated benefits of this project are to ensure public health and the environment are protected by verifying the EPA is complying with reporting requirements, and is considering statutorily mandated studies when promulgating the RFS,” the memorandum says.

The objectives are twofold, the memorandum said. One, to find out if the EPA has complied with reporting requirements required by RFS-related laws. Secondly, to determine if the RFS lifecycle analysis has been updated with information from the National Academy of Sciences 2011 study on biofuels, the EPA’s 2011 report to Congress on the environmental impacts of biofuels, and other relevant research or reports on the subject.