The recent California vote to enact a first-of-its-kind Low Carbon Fuel Standard delivered a broad smack across the ethanol industry’s collective face, creating resistance for future investment in advanced biofuels.
The new standard calculates the carbon intensity of all fuels used in the state, but for ethanol also assigns a penalty for indirect land use (the concept that virgin land is cleared to grow biofuels crops, and therefore releases more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere).
Ethanol industry supporters believe this standard sets an unequal measure for biofuels, and it fails to recognize or penalize other fuels that also have indirect greenhouse gas emissions effects.
"This was a poor decision, based on shaky science, not only for California, but for the nation. It is unfair to selectively single out the indirect effects of one fuel pathway while ignoring the significant indirect effects of all other fuels, including petroleum,” says General Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman calls the California Air Resource Board’s decision - the absolute worst move at the worst possible time. National Corn Growers Association President Bob Dickey says California ignored important estimates of corn yield growth trends as well as the expertise of more than 100 scientists who disagreed with the proposal’s focus on indirect land use changes.
It’s important to note that the ethanol industry is not against a low-carbon fuel standard. Quite the contrary, ethanol is a low-carbon fuel. In fact, corn ethanol can compete with other low-carbon fuels IF the playing field is level.
The California Air Resources Board has agreed to continue its study of biofuels and that an "ongoing investigation" is needed to "evaluate the land use and other indirect effects of all transportation fuels."
Let’s just hope the investigation is done by an unbiased party.