The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final rule on setting a new U.S. renewable fuel standard. The announcement came on Feb. 3, just as President Barack Obama announced his plans for accelerating the development of biofuels.
The EPA said that ethanol and other renewable fuels must represent 8.25 percent of total gasoline and diesel sales in 2010 to meet Congress’ mandate that nearly 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced this year. These rules are separate from those regulating the amount of ethanol blended into each gallon of gasoline, which is in most cases 10 percent.
The EPA projected that by 2022, the new fuel standard will increase farmers’ incomes by $13 billion annually, help stabilize prices at the pump, and increase U.S. energy independence.
Unlike a previously proposed version of the rule, the final rule confirms that high-efficiency corn ethanol plants will meet the fuel standard. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said during the press conference that changes to the greenhouse gas modeling found that all biofuel classes meet the renewable fuel standard’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. New calculations found that ethanol can have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline.
“On crop productivity, the data we used [previously] was not right,” Jackson explained. In addition, the EPA’s new methodology took a different approach in factoring in coproducts, and indirect land-use modeling took into account 120 nations — well beyond the initial 40 nations included earlier. As a result, the numbers changed dramatically. Corn ethanol, based on the updated modeling, meets the 20-percent greenhouse gas reduction requirement for it to be considered a conventional biofuel.
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Photo courtesy of jurvetson under the Creative Commons License.