Ethanol groups criticize US climate plan for excluding biofuels

By Erin Voegele | April 25, 2016

On April 22 a ceremony was held at United Nations headquarters in New York to coincide with Earth Day during which several nations, including the U.S., signed the Paris Agreement that aims to limit global temperatures rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. Leaders in the U.S. ethanol sector have criticized the U.S. for not include biofuels in its plan.

According to information published by the Renewable Fuels Association, the agreement will enter into force when at least 55 countries collectively representing at least 55 percent of global emissions sign on in support of the agreement.

Leading up to the Paris Agreement, countries submitted individual plans, known as Intended National Determined Contributions, which outline how they plan to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets. While 37 countries have included biofuels in their INDCs, the U.S. has not.

The RFA pointed out that the U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET model shows corn ethanol from an average dry mill plant reduces GHG emissions by 34 percent when compared to gasoline, event when hypothetical land use change emissions are included.  When comparing direct emissions, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 44 percent when compared to gasoline.

According to the RFA, the use of ethanol reduced CO2-equvalent GHG emissions from transportation by 41.2 million metric tons last year, which is equivalent from removing 8.7 million cars from the road for an entire year. The RFA also pointed to the results of a recent analysis by Life Cycle Associates, which found the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) has resulted in cumulative CO2 savings of 354 million metric tons over the period of implementation.

“It is beyond baffling that biofuels or the RFS were not included in the U.S.’ plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The U.S. should be proud that it has the most progressive and effective transportation-focused carbon program in the world. As the U.S. signs the Paris Agreement, it needs to look no further than its own backyard and fully implement the most potent and proven weapon to combat climate change—the RFS.”

Growth Energy also issued a statement on the matter, noting it is critical to remember the RFS is the only policy in place that is taking meaningful steps to reduce GHG emissions. In addition to supporting the RFS, Growth Energy also stressed it has been actively engaging in trade missions all over the world to bring clean burning fuel to other nations to help them meet their carbon reduction goals.

“Our industry is committed to taking steps to mitigate harmful greenhouse gas emissions that have been shown to be a driving force in environmental damage,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. “That is why we are committed to producing clean, green, renewable and biodegradable fuels that are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and are better for our environment.”