If left unchanged, the Obama administration’s proposal to slash use of biofuels in 2014 would increase emissions of greenhouse gases next year, according to a new white paper from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section and lead author of the special report, said, “The Obama administration’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard could reverse progress on one of the central goals of the law – reducing climate-changing emissions from the U.S. transportation sector. Reducing biofuel use in 2014 – while transportation fuel use is projected to increase – would undeniably increase carbon emissions. Increased biofuel use is necessary to continue to achieve year-over-year reductions in carbon emissions in the transportation sector.
“Further, if future RFS requirements are set along the lines EPA has proposed for 2014, the United States will see increased carbon emissions for many years to come, equivalent to adding several million additional cars to our roads year upon year. The Obama administration’s proposal runs the risk of destabilizing commercial development of cellulosic and advanced biofuels, limiting their availability as a substitute for foreign oil from unstable nations. These fuels are beginning to come online and they could significantly reduce carbon emissions over the next few years, if we maintain a stable, working RFS.”
The white paper was published as a special report by Industrial Biotechnology Journal – part of a series of reports marking the journal’s 10th anniversary – and is available online.
The paper utilizes Energy Information Administration projections of fuel use from 2014 to 2022 to estimate volumes of petroleum and biofuel use for each year. The authors then assigned estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the GREET1.2013 model to the volumes and added up year-by-year emissions. Based on EPA’s proposed requirements for 2014, the United States would emit 6.6 million more metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases than it did in 2013. If EPA followed past practice, allowing the overall requirements to remain at the statutory level, the achieved reduction in GHG emissions would be 21.6 million metric tons CO2e. The difference between the increase and the achievable decrease is equivalent to putting 5.9 million additional cars on the road next year. Under other available options for setting the RFS volume requirements, the United States could still achieve carbon emission reductions, the paper finds.
By 2022, the cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases are nearly 1 billion metric tons CO2e higher than would occur if EPA continued to set the RFS at statutory levels. “The EPA should carefully consider the impact on CO2 emissions in the transportation sector in assessing its proposed change in [RFS] methodology,” the authors conclude.