RFA emphasizes ethanol’s potential in USDA climate-smart program

By Renewable Fuels Association | November 03, 2021

The USDA’s new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry program should prioritize projects that will help farmers and downstream processors—like ethanol biorefineries—measure, verify, and monetize carbon sequestration and emissions reductions that result from new technologies and more efficient practices. This recommendation was one of many suggestions submitted by the Renewable Fuels Association Monday in response to the USDA’s request for information on potential Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) initiatives.

RFA’s comments highlighted the fact that renewable fuels already serve as an excellent example of how agriculture can reduce emissions and significantly contribute to the fight against climate change.

“Corn-based ethanol is the perfect climate-smart commodity; it already cuts GHG emissions in half compared when directly to gasoline,”  wrote RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “The transportation sector is the single largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S. Although emissions from the sector are lower than they were in the mid-2000s, they still accounted for 29% of total U.S. emissions in 2019. Therefore, for the CSAF Partnership Program to have the greatest impact, projects that involve the transportation sector, specifically including biofuels, should be eligible for support.”

When it comes to ethanol feedstock, the separation of climate-smart corn from commodity field corn may require adjustments to the supply chain, the comments noted, but this is not unusual for today’s production agriculture. “Systems that could be used in supply chains for climate-smart corn or that could serve as analogs already exist or are taking shape,” Cooper wrote.

In addition, when it comes to project funding, USDA should support efforts that help bridge the gap between current systems and those that will be needed for climate-smart corn and ethanol to expand to commercial scale. It is not necessary that USDA fully fund projects, Cooper wrote, but more simply “to provide the support needed to help get climate-smart agriculture off the ground and demonstrate to private-sector participants that this market segment will have the size and staying power to merit their investment.”

With regard to USDA’s stated desire to more inclusively serve disadvantaged communities, Cooper finally noted that the inclusion of ethanol and related corn production in the CSAF Partnership Program would benefit historically underserved communities more broadly, including economically and environmentally disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas.