At a "press availability" today EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson released the agency's proposed rule (EPA factsheet) to implement the new renewable fuel standard, which requires the first ever federal lifecycle greenhouse gas performance standard (EPA factsheet) for biofuels. Put more plainly, EPA took the second step (Congress having taken the first in passing the law) towards requiring biofuels to actually be better than gasoline. This is a critical step towards getting biofuels right.
Here's what I said in a press statement we released today:
EPA has taken an important step towards getting biofuels right. Our economy and our planet can’t afford to burn any type of fuel that will only create more pollution, but through innovation we can develop renewable fuels that are better than oil and will never run out.
It is imperative that we develop biofuels the smart way, and we are encouraged that EPA Administrator Jackson has offered a science-based proposal to get this done. If we get the rules of the road right through policies such as this one, we can harness the ingenuity of America’s farmers, foresters, and entrepreneurs to create a new generation of biofuels that will help create jobs end our dependence on oil.
The opportunity to review EPA’s proposal will help ensure that biofuels don't mean using our most fragile forests for fuel and that biofuels provide real benefits. We plan to submit comments on what EPA has gotten right and what must be improved to make sure the outcome serves our environmental and energy needs.
As my statement make clear, NRDC looks forward to reviewing the proposed rule (here's actual proposed rule--1000+ pages--and here's regulatory impact analysis--850+ pages--both large PDFs) in detail and submitting comments on the parts that we think EPA has gotten right and those that we think need improvement. For instance based on an cursory initial review, it looks like EPA has done a good job on the scope of emissions—direct and indirect—that they have included. However, we have some initial concerns on how EPA appears to have accounted for those emissions over time.
EPA has also committed to a peer review process for their lifecycle emissions modeling. We believe that this is appropriate for such complex and cutting-edge science. We look forward to seeing the results from that process.
The Administrator made the announcement along with Secretaries Chu and Vilsack from DOE and USDA respectively. The three agency heads also announced a coordinated effort to encourage the development and deployment of advanced biofuels and to get more environmental benefits from biofuels in general. I understand that about $2billion $786 million dollars may have been put on the table by DOE for this and that Secrtary Vilsack promised to full fund biofuels related farm bill programs. This Reuters article provides some detail on a presidential memo establishing this coordinated effort. As I've written before NRDC has been calling for a strong focus of government support to advanced biofuels and to launching them in the best possible way.