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EPA releases preliminary biofuel requirements, industry reacts

Agriculture.com Staff 05/05/2009 @ 1:34pm

As required by the 2007 energy bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday released a preliminary rule on how biofuels must meet requirements to lower greenhouse gases.

At a morning press conference that also included the secretaries of energy and agriculture, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the Agency's proposed rule shows that corn-based ethanol puts out 16% less greenhouse gas than gasoline. The California Air Resources Board recently approved its own greenhouse gas rules for fuels that showed corn-based ethanol puts out slightly more carbon dioxide equivalent than gasoline.

The EPA rule will apply only to new ethanol plants, not existing ones. They must show that they can cut greenhouse gas emissions my more than 20% over gasoline. Biodiesel must be 50% greener than fossil fuels.

"There are production technologies out there that could make new plants meet the requirements of the proposal as well," Jackson said.

The rule does account for indirect land use effects from biofuels, Jackson said. The indirect land use concept tries to take into account how growing crops for ethanol and biodiesel in the U.S. affects the rest of the world when forests and grasslands in other countries are converted to increase food production to offset land taken out of food production in the U.S.

Jackson said that the EPA welcomes peer review by scientists outside of the agency and that they will have 60 days to submit comments.

The 2008 farm bill also mandates spending of $1.1 billion to help the biofuels industry become more efficient, added Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. President Barack Obama has ordered USDA to make those funds available to the industry within 30 days, Vilsack said.

As required by the 2007 energy bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday released a preliminary rule on how biofuels must meet requirements to lower greenhouse gases.

The ethanol industry likely can meet EPA's proposed rule that attempts to measure the carbon footprint of biofuels, its leaders said Tuesday. But the newly revised renewable fuels standard is still not treating ethanol fairly compared to gasoline, said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen.

There are now more than 2,000 pages of EPA rules for officials to sift through, and that's what Growth Energy co-chairmen Tom Buis and retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark intend on doing after Tuesday's announcement by the Agency. A lot hinges on the scientific peer reviews that will now be conducted on the scientific data EPA's cited in its rulemaking.

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