Clean fuel programs dominate discussion at NEC

By Matt Thompson | February 11, 2020

At the 2020 National Ethanol Conference, much attention was given to low-carbon fuels standards, both in remarks by Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper, as well as a morning panel discussion.

But during an afternoon session, Ed Hubbard, RFA general council, said the development of clean fuels standards isn’t limited to the U.S. “In recent years, we’re seeing these clean fuels programs being developed in international markets, as well,” Hubbard said in his opening remarks to an afternoon session titled “The Emergence of International Clean Fuel Standards.”

The panel featured representatives from Canada, Brazil and Europe, who discussed standards in their regions.

Don Connor, president of S&T Squared Consultants, spoke about Canada’s clean fuel standards. “Fuel Quality and Environmental performance are a shared responsibility in Canada between the provinces and the federal government,” Connor said. “Overall, the blending level in Canada is about 6.5 percent.”

He also outlined provincial policies in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, as well as federal regulations. Alberta, he said, has a minimum greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction threshold of 25 percent. Ontario has moved from a 5 percent ethanol requirement that it implemented in 2007, to a 10 percent volume in regular gasoline and an average ethanol carbon intensity of 46 g/MJ as of 2020. British Columbia has both a 5 five percent volume requirement and a low-carbon fuel standard similar to California’s.

Laticia Phillips, North American representative for UNICA, discussed RenovaBio, Brazil’s federal program to cut GHG emissions. “We have 11 ethanol mills certified so far and 143 that have already submitted their production for public comment,” Philips said, adding that UNICA expects the number of companies that apply for certification under RenovaBio to continue to grow.

Zoltan Szabo, sustainability consultant for Ethanol Europe, said Europe’s current regulation may not lead to growth for the biofuels industry in that region. “The essence of the regulation and the most likely outcome is that it won’t achieve very much,” he said, adding that it’s very likely that the share of biofuels in the European market will be lower than it is today.”

He said there are those in Europe who are advocating for blends like and E20 and E30. But, he said, biofuels are often overlooked at global climate events. He said electric vehicles and bicycles receive the most attention for decarbonization. “We need to change that.”

Mike Dwyer, president of Dwyer Agri-Associates, said the standards for clean fuels—like those implemented in Europe, Brazil and Canada—have the potential to spur innovation, and can lead to countries protecting their domestic industries. “I think these clean-fuel standards have the potential to drive innovation in lowering the carbon intensity of ethanol and be rewarded for it in the marketplace,” Dwyer said.

Part of the solution, he said, is to ensure international agreement on policies and how to measure and regulate carbon. “Polices have to be roughly the same, they don’t have to be identical,” he said. “I think as we start to grow, there needs to be a concerted effort of all the different countries to come together and try and measure the same thing with comparable tools and end up with comparable results.”