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Ethanol Industry Reps Concerned By Land-Use Provisions

May 22, 2009

The US biofuel industry is voicing opposition against a provision developed by environmental regulators that would hold it responsible for greenhouse gas emissions from crops overseas.

The EPA has proposed a plan to compare the levels of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels to those generated from petroleum.

The proposal would include the effects of land clearing required to cultivate crops for alternative fuels in its comparison. The provision would be damaging to the biofuel industry, said industry representatives.

An EPA study released May 5 noted that some approaches to producing ethanol do not meet standards to lower greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the average emission reduction rate was 16 percent after figuring in the impact of land clearing.

“It should be obvious to everyone but a few misguided advocates that ILUC (indirect land use change) is not ready for prime time,” Tom Buis of Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol trade group, told a House Agriculture Committee hearing.

A 2007 law states that the US must use 21 billion gallons of biofuels a year by 2022.

According to Reuters, biofuel groups including Growth Energy argue that the inclusion of the international land use requirement should be eliminated.

“In California, the California Air Resources Board approved a low carbon fuel standard that measures the direct effects of all transportation fuels, but singles out only ethanol for the indirect effects by including a penalty for indirect land use changes in other countries,” said Buis.

“It’s a complicated scheme ““ that appears nothing less than a frontal assault on American agriculture,” he added.

Ethanol proponents stated that the estimated impact of land use changes is widely varied and it fails to take other factors, such as local population growth or tax breaks, into account.

“Land use changes are dynamic,” Buis said. “Changes occur for a variety of reasons.  Macro-economic issues such as monetary policy, currency values, domestic food needs, weather, and productivity are considerably bigger factors than one specific use for a commodity that can be used for a variety of products.”

“The (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has failed to recognize all of the practices influencing international land use changes,” said Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson has introduced a new bill that aims to eliminate the EPA’s land use provision.

“We don’t have the right policies to be sure that we can produce a cost-effective domestic supply of clean, renewable fuels,” said Peterson.

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