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EPA change for ethanol is modest

Agriculture.com Staff 02/04/2010 @ 4:35pm

New rules from the EPA on the carbon footprint do not open the door very wide to more ethanol production under the mandates of the 2007 energy bill.

On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that because its revised estimate of corn ethanol's carbon footprint show that it's more than 20% greener than gasoline, that it could be part of the mix of advanced biofuels that will be needed to meet a mandate of 36 billion gallons of biofuel use by the year 2022.

Later, EPA Press Secretary Adora Andy issued the following statement regarding a press conference call:

"Administrator Jackson misspoke on today's call. Corn ethanol, based on EPA's updated modeling, meets the 20% GHG reduction requirement qualifying it for use as a conventional biofuel -- not an advanced biofuel, which must meet a 50% reduction requirement."

According to Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, the mandate for corn ethanol remains capped at 15 billion gallons.

"It would take an act of Congress to change that," Hartwig said.

The industry currently has capacity of about 13 billion gallons. Some capacity remains idled, with not quite 12 billion gallons of capacity in operation.

If Congress requires EPA to abandon its use of international indirect land use change in the methods it uses to calculate ethanol's greenhouse gas emissions, the fuel might put out 50% less carbon dioxide equivalent than gasoline.

But, Hartwig said, Congress would also have to change the definition of advanced. Currently, the law specifically excludes corn starch as a feedstock for advanced biofuels.

New rules from the EPA on the carbon footprint do not open the door very wide to more ethanol production under the mandates of the 2007 energy bill.

Wednesday's release of rules for the 2007 energy bill was good news for the corn ethanol industry, opening the door for ethanol to help meet a 36-billion gallon renewable fuels mandate by 2022. But the agency's use of international indirect land use in the way it calculates the carbon footprint of biofuels has drawn a backlash from Midwestern Democrats and Republicans.

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