March 17, 2009

Senators chime in on indirect land use

A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. Senators have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to propose regulations assuming that greater U.S. biofuels use would increase carbon dioxide emissions through "indirect land use changes."

The senators argued the data and methods for calculating indirect land use changes are not adequately developed.

EPA has not yet published a proposed rule on the subject – but one has been expected for some time now.

Here are a few lines from the news release:

"It defies common sense that EPA would publish a proposed rulemaking with harmful conclusions for biofuels based on incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions," Sen. Chuck Grassley said. "EPA’s actions, if based on erroneous indirect land use assumptions, could hinder biofuels development and actually extend America’s reliance on dirtier fossil fuels. Agricultural practices and land use decisions in other countries are not driven by U.S. biofuels policy, and should not be used to undermine our domestic biofuels industry."

Their letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recommends that EPA refrain from including calculations of the effects of indirect land use changes in their rulemaking at this time.

The concern comes from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that calls for reduced carbon emissions from advanced biofuels under the RFS.

The law requires biofuels like ethanol to meet certain lifecycle greenhouse gas emission caps in order to qualify for the RFS. It specifies that those lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are to include the effects of indirect land use changes.

The challenge is there are so many unknowns about land use changes – with many calling some conclusions on the subject nothing more than unproven theories.

For the senator’s full letter, click here.

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