Enviros to EPA: don't let politics trump science on biofuels

As I mentioned in my post over the weekend, a handful of environmental and conservation groups sent a letter [link fixed] to EPA today calling on the agency to comply with the letter of the law and protect the environment by letting science, instead of politics, guide the rulemaking to implement the renewable fuel standard. The letter cc's the Secretary of Agriculture since, perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of the political back pressure comes from that quarter.

Look for more scientists and economists to join the fray soon on the side of using the best available science to guide our actions rather than letting politics run amok. Unfortunately, even after EPA acts, you can be sure that some will feel tempted to try to get Congress to do an end-run around EPA's process.

My sincere hope, though, is that soon leaders in the advanced biofuels industry will decide to get proactively and productively engaged in the debate about how to accurately measure the lifecycle GHG emissions from biofuels. I think the confidence that sort of message would send investors (not to mention the certainty wrapping up EPA and California's rule quickly would provide) is critical to the industry at this point.

Once the industry is back at the table, my hope is that they will focus on three critical parts of the lifecycle methodology: the scope of economically induced emissions, the inputs and models used for direct and indirect emissions, and the treatment of these emissions over time. More generally, I think there could be lots of consensus over the need for EPA (and CARB) to carefully analyze the most promising advanced sources of biomass. Understandably, the advanced biofuels industry is worried that the agencies will just cut and paste corn ethanol lifecycle numbers onto even the industry's innovative options. Developing detailed and well researched numbers for a "Chinese menu" of most promising feedstocks, land-types, management practices, and conversion technologies would give the industry options and clear guidance on paths forward.

About the Authors

Nathanael Greene

Director, Renewable Energy Policy, Energy & Transportation program

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