EPA moves closer to final – and controversial – ethanol rules



EPA, as mandated by a major 2007 energy law, is weighing the “lifecycle” greenhouse gas emissions of various types of fuels to determine whether they’re eligible under the standard.

The ethanol industry is lobbying furiously to prevent the agency from considering something called “international indirect land use changes” when making these calculations. This refers to emissions from, say, forest clearing for cropland in other countries spurred by increasing use of U.S. corn and soybeans for making fuels.

The industry argues such calculations are shoddy and unfair, claiming the science behind them is too immature for use in federal rules. But environmentalists say the science is robust enough and that if such emissions are not weighed, the national biofuels policy will actually worsen climate change.

Round one went to the industry.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) won a provision in the big energy and climate bill that the House approved in June that blocks EPA from weighing these land use-related emissions for at least six years.

A number of farm-state senators from both sides of the aisle, such as Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), also don’t want EPA weighing these indirect land use change emissions.

Other changes to the rule may also be afoot. Climate legislation making its way through the Senate would expand the types of fuels that qualify under the mandate to ensure that algae-based fuels – which are attracting increasing investment – are included.