Cooper testifies in Senate committee hearing on national CFP

By Staff Report | February 15, 2023

Implementing a national clean fuel program that incorporates a market-based, technology-neutral approach will be critical to decarbonizing the U.S. transportation sector, the Renewable Fuels Association stressed today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“While policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Inflation Reduction Act, and light-duty vehicle fuel economy and tailpipe standards will play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, other complementary solutions will also be required to truly decarbonize the sector by mid-century,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper, appearing in person during a hearing panel Wednesday morning. “If properly structured, a national Clean Fuel Program (sometimes called a Low Carbon Fuel Standard or Clean Fuel Standard) offers the best potential to rapidly accelerate the decarbonization of the transportation sector, while simultaneously enhancing energy security, creating jobs, and reducing tailpipe emissions of pollutants linked to poor air quality and human health challenges.”

Cooper noted the unanimous commitment made by RFA member companies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, and that a workable pathway has been developed toward that goal. This ambitious goal, while achievable, cannot be reached without policy alignment in six areas, he said:

fairness and consistency in how the carbon footprint of different fuels and vehicles is measured;

removal of unnecessary regulatory barriers that are blocking the use of fuel blends that contain higher levels of ethanol, such as 15 percent ethanol blends (E15);

continued investment in storage and distribution infrastructure for higher ethanol blends like E15 and flex fuels like E85;

implementation of strong Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements in 2023 and beyond;

equitable incentives for the production of flex-fuel vehicles that can operate on fuels containing up to 85 percent ethanol; and

a well-structured nationwide clean fuels policy.

“If implemented on a national level, a CFP will need to be carefully designed in a way that avoids picking technology winners and losers and drives the greatest GHG emissions reductions at the lowest cost,” Cooper stated. “A nationwide CFP should use consistent, fair, and science-based lifecycle GHG analyses for all fuel and vehicle options; set clear and predictable annual GHG reduction requirements; allow low-carbon fuel producers to demonstrate continuous improvement in their individual carbon footprints; include cost-containment measures; and include complimentary measures to remove technical barriers that artificially limit greater use of low-carbon fuels.”

ACE submits written testimony, stressing role of low-carbon farming

The American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday, underscoring the critical role low-carbon biofuels and climate smart agriculture practices can play in ensuring federal clean fuel policy meets transportation decarbonization goals as the EPW Committee held a hearing on “The Future of Low Carbon Transportation Fuels and Considerations for a National Clean Fuels Program.” ACE also joined a diverse group of over 20 organizations part of the DriveClean Initiative in submitting principles upon which a Clean Fuel Standard could be drafted.

“Establishment of a federal Clean Fuel Standard would be a powerful tool to help the U.S. meet the 2050 GHG emission reduction objective for the U.S. transportation sector,” Jennings said. “The ethanol industry and U.S. farmers are primed to be part of the solution. To do so, however, means federal policies like a Clean Fuel Standard must be technology-neutral and ensure fair and accurate accounting and crediting of GHG reductions from climate smart agriculture practices.”

ACE has been at the forefront of discussions on how the ethanol industry and U.S. farmers can further contribute to GHG reduction goals. Guided by its Board of Directors’ objective for ethanol production to reach net-zero lifecycle GHG emissions by 2050, ACE is involved in policy development and work to provide real-world validation of lifecycle GHG benefits of climate smart agriculture practices at scale.

“A properly crafted federal Clean Fuels Standard would more quickly incentivize U.S. ethanol companies and farmers to invest in production processes and deployment of climate smart agriculture practices to reach these net-zero carbon intensity goals in a meaningful timeframe to address the current climate challenges,” Jennings added.

ACE’s testimony notes how state Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs and GHG models significantly undervalue the climate benefits of today’s farming practices. ACE is proactively working to document the benefits of climate smart practices on the carbon intensity of corn ethanol through its South Dakota-based, USDA-funded Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project, in partnership with top land-grant scientists and Sandia National Lab. The goal is to create a scientifically proven, non-proprietary measurement and validation tool that clean fuel regulators, renewable fuel producers and farmers can use to credit these GHG contributions in state and federal clean fuel programs.

In the submission to the Committee, ACE provided scientific evidence and economic analysis showing that adoption of climate smart agriculture practices is one of the quickest and most cost-effective areas for GHG emission mitigation. ACE conducted county level analysis using USDA’s GHG predictive COMET-Planner tool to measure climate smart practices deployed in an expanded version of the South Dakota RCPP project across a 10-state region. The analysis showed a reduction in CO2 emissions of 364,098 metric tons per year, and if LCFS market access was secured, roughly $530 million in new revenues annually based on current carbon pricing, with farmers earning approximately $263 per acre annually.