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Ethanol Industry Analysis Finds GHG Reductions Success from Biofuels

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A new study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Foundation shows greenhouse gas emissions reductions Renewable Fuel Standard 2 have exceeded the EPA's expectations for GHG reductions.

The analysis completed by Life Cycle Associates based in California, finds RFS2 has led to 579 million metric tons of GHG reduction since 2007 when the law was implemented. Originally, the EPA estimated GHG reductions of 422 million metric ton.

GHG reduction of 600 million metric tons would be the equivalent to removing roughly half of the nation's automobiles from the road for a full year or shutting down 154 coal-fired power plants for a year, according to EPA.

The LCA analysis said RFS2's primary GHG reduction success comes from improvements made in the ethanol production process since 2007.

"The GHG reductions are due to the greater than expected savings from ethanol and other biofuels," the study said. "These emissions savings occur even though cellulosic biofuels have not met the RFS2 production targets. Biofuels have achieved and exceeded the GHG reductions estimated by EPA."

The report said a few things have contributed to the larger-than-expected GHG reductions. The adoption of technology improvements in corn-ethanol production has led to larger GHG reductions than originally estimated by EPA.

LCA said petroleum's GHG emissions are higher than the baseline estimates originally projected by EPA, as well, which also has improved biofuels' GHG profile compared to petroleum.

In addition, the report said advanced biofuels like biodiesel, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas have contributed additional GHG reductions although actual cellulosic biofuel production has been lower than projected.

In 2018 alone, the study found conventional ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 43% compared to petroleum, even with land-use change included.

Initially EPA projected conventional ethanol would achieve only a 20% GHG reduction compared to petroleum.

Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Cooper said the analysis shows technological advancements are not needed to achieve GHG reductions now.

"And with renewable fuels, we don't need to cross our fingers and wait for the development and commercialization of a new technology," Cooper said in a news release. "Ethanol is available here and now to help our nation decarbonize our transportation fuels in a cost effective manner. As the new Congress turns its focus to climate change and efforts to reduce GHG emissions, we encourage lawmakers to recognize and build upon the incredible success of the RFS."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley