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Environmental Group Praises the Carbon Benefits of Gasoline

January 30, 2015
Groundhog Day arrived ahead of schedule this year, as the World Resources Institute launched its annual attack on biofuels. But the yearly ritual took on a tinge of April Fools’ Day as the environmental group oddly advocated that the U.S. firmly establish the blend wall in regulatory rules and thereby guarantee fossil fuels a 90 percent share of the gasoline market.
The institute released a “new” report titled “Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land,” by Tim Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich. The paper starts with a blatantly false premise that “any dedicated use of land for bioenergy inherently comes at the cost of not using that land for food, feed, or sustained carbon storage.” Studies from Iowa State University and Michigan State University demonstrate that land can be efficiently used to produce food, feed and biofuels. Production of biofuels from conventional and cellulosic crops generates animal feed as a co-product. And U.S. farmers have steadily increased productivity by improving crop yields and efficiently using existing crop land.
The authors also attribute carbon sequestration benefits from food crops to petroleum fossil fuels. Fossil fuel use releases carbon that was previously sequestered below ground. The lifecycle of these fuels does not include reabsorption of that carbon. But the lifecycle of biofuel production does include the replanting of crops to reabsorb carbon emissions. There is no mistake or double-counting of carbon flows in the current international carbon accounting system as the authors erroneously assert.
But the most objectionable assertion in the paper states that “it is important” for the U.S. EPA to establish the blend wall in regulatory policy. The so-called blend wall would limit the amount of biofuel used in gasoline to 10 percent – essentially guaranteeing that 90 percent would be petroleum. BIO has already demonstrated that EPA’s actions to protect the oil industry’s monopoly position in transportation fuels caused a measureable increase in carbon emissions during 2014. Continued reliance on oil is no path to carbon reductions or affordable food – the World Bank identifies oil prices as the number one determinant of food prices.
Overall, the latest attack on biofuels appears to be a late Christmas gift for the oil industry.