CARB Cuts Penalty for Ethanol

Proposed Rule Change Would Make Corn-Based Ethanol Eligible in California

Myke Feinman , Refined Fuels Reporter

STREATOR, Ill. (DTN) -- A proposed change to California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard rules would mean a reduction in the carbon penalty for corn-based ethanol from 30 grams per megajoule originally set in 2009 to 23.2 g/mj.

The California Air Resources Board held a workshop Tuesday, March 11, outlining the proposed changes.

The change will make biofuels such as corn-based ethanol primarily produced outside of California, and soy-based biodiesel eligible as a low-carbon fuel in the state.

The LCFS mandates California fuel producers and suppliers to annually reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of fuel provided that increases to a 10% reduction from 2010 levels by 2020.

CARB expects this to be done by replacing high-carbon fuels with low-carbon fuels or by blending low-carbon fuels with high-carbon fuels to reduce the CI of the finished fuel.

Each fuel in the LCFS is assigned a CI score -- measured in grams of CO2-equivalent per megajoule (g/mj) -- based on CARB's estimate of the lifecycle emissions associated with producing and marketing the fuel. For reference, gasoline has a CI score of 99.2 g/mj.

In the proposal, corn ethanol's penalty is reduced from 30.0 g/mj to 23.2 g/mj with a range of 13.1 to 40.0, depending on how the fuel is produced and other factors such as the energy efficiency of the production plant.

Sugarcane ethanol goes from 46 to 26.5 g/mj, ranging 13.5 to 44.1 g/mj.

Soy biodiesel is reduced from 62 to 30.2 g/mj, ranging from 17.6 to 52.1 g/MJ.

The proposal also includes canola biodiesel with a score of 41.6 and sorghum ethanol with a score of 17.5. Those fuels were not included in the original 2009 LCFS.

The original 30.0 g/mj penalty rendered "most Midwest corn ethanol unfit for mid- or long-term compliance under the LCFS program," Geoff Cooper, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, wrote in a blog about the proposed changes on Monday, March 10.

The change is also good for the biodiesel industry, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the National Biodiesel Board: "The proposal recognizes biodiesel's sustainability and environmental benefits, takes a notable step in the right direction, and will open new avenues for biodiesel use in the state," the NBB said.

The proposed changes in the carbon penalty are based on recent studies showing less carbon intensity from the production of biofuels, CARB said.

Myke Feinman can be reached at


Myke Feinman