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BIO: RFS’ biofuel requirements saved 589.3M tons of carbon emissions over past decade

Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To develop its estimates, BIO utilized the GREET1.2013 model to compare carbon emissions from the mixture of US transportation fuels (both petroleum and biofuel) under two scenarios. The first scenario applied the annual required RFS Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) percentages, as established by EPA rulemakings, to the volumes of fossil-based, non-renewable gasoline and diesel used in the United States. To establish a second scenario, BIO assumed that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel would have continued to meet just over 3% of the total reported transportation fuel use over the decade and that petroleum gasoline and diesel would have been used instead.

Bio
The calculated annual emissions from the mix of transportation fuel use under each scenario as well as the measured reduction (the difference between the two). The annual measured reduction represents the savings attributable to the existence of the RFS, and the total for the entire decade is 589.33 million metric tons. Source: BIO. Click to enlarge.

Within the bounds of the first scenario, for years 2006-2009, BIO applied the established RVO percentages only to gasoline use (since RFS2 came into effect only in July 2010). For 2010-2015, it applied the RVOs established in annual rulemakings to the non-renewable portion of gasoline and diesel use. Further, it applied the RVO percentages as nested requirements, inherently assuming that advanced ethanol was used as a portion of overall ethanol use.

RFS1 and RFS2
President George W. Bush signed the RFS into law by on August 8, 2005 as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The first version of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS1) called for annual increases in production and use of biofuels through 2012.
Congress updated and expanded the program (RFS2) in December 2007 to more aggressively increase use of biofuels through 2022 and to promote commercialization of advanced biofuels.

GREET1.2013 utilizes 2012 average estimates of the carbon emissions of gasoline, diesel, corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, soy biodiesel and corn stover cellulosic ethanol. BIO assumed that the volumes of various fuels in the fuel mix generated these average emissions each year over the entire decade.

Under the second, market-force driven scenario, BIO found that even if biofuel use had increased to 5.4% through market forces alone (reaching the level envisioned under RFS1), the measured reductions in carbon emissions attributable to having the RFS program in place would be more than 390 million metric tons.

The major findings of the study include:

  • Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard has reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons.

  • The total reduction is equivalent to removing more than 124 million cars from the road over the decade.

  • The RFS has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of oil over the past decade by replacing fossil fuels with homegrown biofuels.

  • EPA’s recent proposed rules for the RFS would cut short achievable future carbon emission reductions. In 2015 alone, the proposal would add 19.6 million tons of CO2e for the year, equal to putting 7.3 million cars back on the road, compared with achievable levels of biofuel use.

The Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law ten years ago this month by President George W. Bush. The law’s purpose was to end America’s addiction to oil, reduce reliance on foreign oil and lower carbon emissions from the transportation sector. The RFS program has demonstrably achieved those goals. The total reduction in carbon emissions achieved under the program is equal to removing more than 124 million cars from the road over the decade.

It is unfortunate that the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed issuing new rules for the program and is now proposing to halt growth in the biofuel market. The agency’s delay will continue to allow fossil fuels to be used when cleaner, lower carbon biofuels are available, reversing some of the progress made in the past ten years.

—Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section

Comments

DaveD

LOL GREET: A spreadsheet with a graphical interface on front! So....if you plugged in some numbers that you ASSUMED, then the results are scientific fact!!!!

Morons.

I wish people would stop treating anything with the word GREET as if it were scientific fact. Seriously, anyone can use it...it's just a spreadsheet you plug numbers into to create charts. So you can plug in any numbers you want and the results are meaningless.

You have to look at WHO is plugging in the numbers and what their bias is. In this case, it's the people who want you to use more ethanol so guess what: Their "results" show that biofuels are the second coming of Jesus Christ himself! I wonder how that happened? LOL

Again: MORONS if you believe this.

Trees

It should be accurate given we have accurate records for RFS gallons consumed. The GREET model per spreadsheet is nice as it's an open (peer review) calculation and should hold up to scrutiny upon calcs. This is settled allowances, standard practice stuff. Meaning it's not the best of the alternative fuels suppliers, but the average. The model utilize agreed upon figures. As the industries change, the model needs to be updated to reflect better knowledge. I like this approach as they have training classes on the model (open for all users) and if knowing spreadsheet software one can uncover the math. The GW scientist should simplify their software like wise. To much magic black box calculations going on in that science with unpublished factors and assumptions. Don't trust what can't be verified. A spread sheet should more than be adequate for precision given the inaccuracy of the science to begin with.

kalendjay

Not even a measly 5% savings of carbon emissions -- only tailpipe emissions, mind you -- ignoring energy inputs and greenhouse emissions down on the ethanol farm. Inflating your tires and avoiding rush hour traffic would do better -- as well as those "staycations" that became famous over the last five years.

Sounds like a desperate attempt by inside bureaucrats to lobby for more power to the EPA, as if the new spate of clean air standards for utilities weren't enough. And how did the EPA slip under Reid and Obama? Are Democrats in bed with GM and the UAW?

DaveD

Emily,
You're missing the point. Sure, we have accurate numbers for how many gallons of ethanol was used, etc. But that means nothing unless we all agree on the "well to wheels" emissions of each fuel.

"GREET1.2013 utilizes 2012 average estimates of the carbon emissions of gasoline, diesel, corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, soy biodiesel and corn stover cellulosic ethanol." Who's estimates did they use? Did they account for the military bases in the middle east to protect and enable the world oil supply? Did they account for how much land was deforested for the fields where the source stock was grown? There are literally thousands or tens of thousands of variables in these assumptions.

There is absolutely no agreement on which assumptions to make on these numbers between the different camps, hence they can make these "emissions numbers" look any way they want.

Trees

The GREET model from CARB inflicts 23% more emissions penalty as compared to the EPA model FASOM. The GREET model allows no corn oil offset per ethanol process and assumes 100% of the distillery grains have to be dried. This seems to be a falsehood assumption. Also, the model is not forward leaning in that it picks historic data. The LUC penalty is a wild guess with little scientific study. Most of it apportioned to Brazil antics of which U.S. corn growers have no say. The values are in constant state of flux. Historical satellite images disprove the theory. There is a benefit to improving the wealth of farmers in that they can afford efficient machines and motivated to improve practices. If ethanol is penalized with LUC where is petrol’s LUC considering the constant need to harvest oil and develop land, example Canadian Boreal forest or Gulf of Mexico sea life? Where is the emission penalty per military enforcement of free trade of oil? All are huge indirect pollutants of environment. Searchinger once had published a 103g/MJ carbon rating for ethanol per cutting down entire forests. What a nutty evaluation considering normal forestry practices actually improve tree growth and old growth forest become carbon neutral. Ethanol is actually a factor of waste wood. EPA’s model sits at 63g/MJ, LCFS CA = 30 g/MJ and the most recent and accurate analysis by Purdue utilizing the T-TAP improved model updated with most recent research 14 g/MJ. This model includes a 1% crop growth harvest typical per modern farming practices and seed selection. Soil science studies all indicate the biofuels will get a bump up in carbon rating as well as the improved ethanol process plants that utilize anaerobic digesters for energy inputs and cogen with power production. Additionally, the co-product developments of corn oil and algal oil, and cellulosic ethanol. Also, a big factor to reduce emissions is the ability of ethanol to spike plain gasoline to allow more efficiency of ICE engine design and operation. Modern engine advance timing to maximum efficiency in which ethanol has suburb ability and at a improved environmental rating. Ethanol optimized engines match common gasoline engine per MPG. These two environmental benefit must me huge across the entire international gasoline fleet and yet go awarded.

Trees

Since unproven LUC penalty is the major factor within decreasing ethanol carbon rating, where is the huge offset per ethanol to increase carbon efficiency of gasoline cars? If theoretic land use change upon the future can be factored into harming ethanol rating the benefit of ethanol to increase octane rating of gasoline and usher in more efficiency within the regular fleet and modern vehicles with adaptive timing advance should be a huge plus. Since E15 is an approved fuel that most vehicles can use, the fuel use change factor to award ethanol lower carbon rating should be large. Currently, the auto industry claim they need high octane fuel to improve engine efficiency. Since ethanol can come to the rescue wouldn't the "fuel use change factor" for ethanol be large as the fuel can claim credit for improving the gasoline side and ensuing increase in efficiency. Nothing is cheaper or more environmentally friendly than ethanol for the job.

SJC

Make E85 more available and make it cellulosic ethanol. California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard has rating for all types.

litesong

Why does GreenCarCongress support lying. The oil quantity used to produce ethanol is in great dispute. Furthermore, for a decade the "ethanol in gasoline industry" (along with the EPA) has been given a "get out of jail card" free, as they support the misery of an idea that E10 only loses 2.5% to 3% mpg compared to 100% ethanol-free gasoline(E0). With accurate records over a decade comparing 100% ethanol-free gasoline(E0) & E10, my last five 87 octane engines, show 8%, 8%, 7%-8%, 7% & 5% increases, E0 vs. E10. Thousands of drivers with E0 to E10 records show similar E0 advantages. A few have to same numbers as I have. Supposed "technical" GreenCarCongress won't show the obvious inefficiency of 114 octane ethanol used(not burned efficiently) in low 87 octane gasoline engines, showing an obvious bias.

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