Grain Bins


RFS2 rules start, but miss target on land use change science

Posted on February 04, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) missed the full target with today’s newly released regulations implementing an expanded federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). The South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) says EPA only got it half right.

Corn ethanol’s distinct advantage over conventional gasoline was finally given credit it deserves when it comes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the EPA, by acknowledging a reduction of more than 21 percent in some cases. This means that all corn ethanol including existing grandfathered capacity and new production will be able to count towards the 15 billion gallon base threshold in the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard.

While crediting ethanol’s carbon footprint to more accurately reflect real-world data is a start, it’s not enough. Unfairly penalizing domestically produced ethanol by including hocus pocus indirect land use change (ILUC) calculations is where EPA is dead wrong.

“In the case of international indirect land use changes, President Obama and EPA got it wrong today,” said Gary Duffy, vice president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “The Administration needs to make certain we have scientific evidence to support using indirect land use changes in calculating the RFS2, and the scientific community has not come to a scientific consensus on this issue.”

When the ILUC theory is removed from the equation, corn ethanol’s direct-effect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represent a 61 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to gasoline. Not only is unproven science being set in policy but the idea of international indirect land use is applied only in the case of corn ethanol.

Duffy says the EPA should reject the flawed and unproven theory of ILUC, which assumes that growing more corn means planting corn on a greater amount of acreage and will impact other crops or natural resources on a global basis. Today’s yield trends show this to be false. The nation’s 2009 record corn yield was 165.2 bushels per acre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 15 bushels higher than the last record year in 2007 – and all this on 7 million fewer acres.

“South Dakota was in tandem with the nation in exceeding all production records in 2009, despite being challenged with one of the worst growing and harvesting seasons in generations,” said Duffy, a farmer from Oldham, S.D. “We harvested 719 million bushels of corn in South Dakota, 134 million bushels more than the last record. We need policy to keep pace with the production efficiencies and environmental commitments of the nation’s corn farmers.”

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