Dale criticizes CARB indirect land use policy

By Kris Bevill | October 06, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 29, 2008 at 4:56 p.m. CST

A leading member of the scientific life-cycle analysis community held a conference call for reporters Oct. 27 to stress the potential "horrible development" of a California policy regarding indirect land use change for the production of biofuels.

Bruce Dale, a chemical engineering professor and associate director of the Office of Biobased Technologies at Michigan State University, said the California Air Resources Board's plan to include indirect land use changes in its calculation for greenhouse gas emissions standards would be a "radical" policy. "It makes American fuel producers responsible not only for their own actions…but for the actions of people literally on the other side of the world," he said, adding that such a policy has never been imposed on any industry.

Implementation of an indirect land use change policy could happen as part of the state's Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Regulations for the standard will be considered by the board in March 2009; however, they will not become effective until 2010, according to CARB spokesman Stanley Young. Less than a week after CARB released a discussion draft, a group of more than two dozen scientists, including Dr. Dale, along with renewable fuel industry members wrote to the board requesting further research be conducted before such a policy is adopted. (Read Alliance: Too soon to enforce indirect land use for more information.)

Dale said he has been a member of the life-cycle analysis community for more than 10 years and while he supports the accountability of direct land use change, indirect land use change is impossible to measure at this time. The difference is relatively simple: direct change can be traced back to actual production, transportation and combustion of fuels; indirect changes are market and policy-related and have yet to be accurately measured by any model.

Ramifications of an indirect land use policy include the derailment of the second-generation ethanol industry as well as a possible increase in reliance on foreign oil, Dale said.