Climate advisor tells EPA that ethanol reduces GHG emissions

By Clean Fuels Development Coalition | March 03, 2022

In the wrap-up session of a two-day U.S. EPA workshop, Reid Detchon, senior advisor for climate solutions for the United Nations Foundation, urged EPA to stop dwelling on uncertainties in greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling and accept the extensive work that has already been conducted by the federal government.

"Argonne National Laboratory has refined its greenhouse gas lifecycle analysis of fuels now over many years," said Detchon. "Today’s discussion has underscored the value of this tool, which is the clear gold standard in the field. EPA should immediately incorporate the updated GREET findings into its own analyses and rulemakings."

The EPA workshop was intended to gather information on the current scientific understanding of greenhouse gas modeling of land-based crop biofuels used in the transportation sector.  Detchon and others argued that the carbon sequestration value of corn has been misrepresented by numerous studies in the past, despite NASA satellite imaging showing that the Corn Belt is a carbon sink and EPA's own GHG Inventory Report showing the positive impact of corn on organic soil carbon. 

"The land use change issue has led to a serious misunderstanding of the value of biofuels for GHG reduction, especially corn ethanol," Detchon told the workshop attendees. He said the land use effect of corn ethanol may well be positive in some cases if it is given credit for increasing soil carbon. In contrast, EPA attributes no life-cycle GHG effects to electricity in evaluating EVs – even though most electricity comes from fossil fuels.

Detchon is a member of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition Advisory Committee, which has been urging EPA to adopt the Argonne GREET (Greenhouse Gas, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation) model and not be influenced by studies based on counterfactual hypotheticals like the National Wildlife Federation's flawed analysis released last month.

CFDC Executive Director Doug Durante said, "EPA stated that the information gathered as part of this workshop will be used to inform a range of current and future actions.  These are critical times as we grapple with energy, health, and environmental issues surrounding the fuels we use. As Mr. Detchon said, policy should be based on what we know, and we know the full life-cycle analysis of corn ethanol tells a different story than what has been portrayed. EPA should rely on the work of U.S. government experts, recognize the value of corn ethanol, and clear the pathway for increased biofuel use.”