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Growth Energy Tells House Committee Ethanol Should Qualify as Advanced Biofuel

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor told a House subcommittee on Thursday that corn-based ethanol should be considered an advanced biofuel. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) – Most studies on the carbon footprint of corn-based ethanol show the biofuel reduces carbon emissions by 50% compared to gasoline – meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard definition as an advanced biofuel – yet the law does not allow corn ethanol to qualify.

In a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials, Growth Energy CEO said her group supports the Fuels Parity Act, H.R. 3337, introduced by Iowa Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

That bill puts corn-starch ethanol on par with all other feedstocks in the RFS, qualifying the biofuel as an advanced biofuel.

"Currently, under the RFS, biomass-based fuels can be considered as advanced biofuels provided that they achieve a 50% greenhouse gas reduction; however, corn starch is the only feedstock that is prohibited from qualifying as an advanced biofuel regardless of the GHG reduction achieved," Skor said in the letter.

"Brazilian sugarcane ethanol can be an advanced biofuel, but corn starch ethanol cannot. The fibrous outer shell of a kernel of corn, known as corn kernel fiber, can be an advanced biofuel, but corn starch ethanol cannot. Sorghum, the closest plant-based cousin to corn and a feedstock that is often processed right along with corn starch, can be an advanced biofuel and corn starch ethanol cannot.

"The same ground that grows corn also grows things like soybeans, wheat, and barley -- all of which can be advanced biofuels. So long as corn starch ethanol can achieve a 50% GHG emission reduction, it should be afforded the same opportunity to be an advanced biofuel like every other feedstock."

The U.S. ethanol industry has the capacity to produce more than 17 billion gallons, which is above the 15 billion the EPA has set in the RFS for 2024 and 2025. Allowing corn-based ethanol to qualify as an advanced biofuel would create more room for ethanol blending in the RFS.

Miller-Meeks' legislation calls on the EPA to use the U.S. Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model.

By requiring the use of GREET the bill would direct EPA to use the best-available science to determine the greenhouse gas benefits of biofuels. That also would ensure feedstocks are accurately judged based on their actual carbon performance.

"While we are grateful for the discussion of the Fuels Parity Act, a hearing on the freedom to buy affordable fuel is incomplete without mentioning the role that higher blends of biofuel like E15, a 15% biofuel-blended fuel, play in reducing costs at the pump," Skor said in the letter.

"Last summer amid record-high gas prices E15 provided savings as high as nearly $1 per gallon compared to regular E10 in some areas of the country. This summer, we have already seen instances of $.60-per-gallon savings at the pump thanks to E15. These are meaningful reductions."

Skor said Americans have driven more than 75 billion miles on E15, which is available at more than 3,000 stations in 31 states.

"Unfortunately, due to outdated federal regulations, E15 cannot be sold year-round," Skor said.

"In order for American families to reap the benefits of these cost savings, we urge the committee to consider and pass H.R. 1608, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, legislation to make year-round sales of E15 permanent."

Skor said a move from E10 to E15 would reduce carbon emissions by more than 17 million tons.

"Increased blends of ethanol also mean less pollution and healthier communities," she said.

"Let us be clear -- liquid fuels will continue to play a dominant role in the transportation sector now and for decades to come. Therefore, it is imperative to consider the vital role that affordable and environmentally sustainable fuel options such as ethanol will play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the current and future vehicle fleet, rather than putting the thumb on the scale for one, single technology."

In addition, Skor told the committee the final Renewable Fuel Standard volumes released on Wednesday "undermines the potential" for growth in low-carbon biofuels.

"While the RFS remains one of America's most successful clean energy policies, its full potential as a climate solution remains untapped -- yet again," Skor said.

"EPA's decision to lower its ambitions for conventional biofuels runs counter to the direction set by Congress and will needlessly slow progress toward climate goals."

Read more on DTN:

"EPA Finalizes Multi-Year RFS Volumes,"…

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