Compromise Amendment to Waxman-Markey Bill Prohibits EPA From Using Indirect Land Use Change Metrics on Biofuels for 5 Years While National Academies Research the Issue
A compromise between House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman on the Waxman-Markey energy and cap-and-trade bill (H.R. 2454) (earlier post) due for a vote in the House this week prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing indirect land use change (ILUC) metrics on biofuels in the new Renewable Fuels Standard (earlier post) for 5 years while research is conducted by the National Academies of Science on the issue. The compromise is expressed in an amendment offered by Peterson to the bill.
After that period, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy as well as the EPA Administrator must jointly decide to accept or reject the findings. Additionally, Congress will have one year following that decision to act, if it so chooses.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS-2) defined within the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires biofuels to meet specified life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to qualify. The law specifies that life-cycle GHG emissions are to include “direct emissions and significant indirect emissions such as significant emissions from land use changes, as determined by the Administrator.” The provision for indirect land use metrics only applies to biofuels.
Depending upon the assumptions and boundary conditions set in the ILUC evaluation, the result can dramatically increase the calculated GHG footprint of a biofuel, far offsetting the presumed greenhouse gas benefits of its use. (Earlier post.)
The challenge is that the ability to calculate future indirect land use changes resulting from production of biofuels is limited by the lack of both proven and accepted land use models and sufficient information about input data. For example, future land use policies may well be major factors in determining future land use changes, and yet adequate information and approaches for calculating the effects of such as-yet-unknown policies aren’t available. (Earlier post.)
The Peterson amendment requires the National Academies to evaluate and report on whether there are economic and environmental models and methodologies that individually, or as a system, can project with reliability, predictability, and confidence:
- Indirect land use changes that are related to the production of renewable fuels and that may occur outside the country in which the feedstocks are grown, and the impacts of these changes on greenhouse gas emissions; and
- indirect effects, both domestic and international, related to the production and importation of non-renewable transportation fuels that have significant greenhouse gas emissions, and the impact of these effects on greenhouse gas emissions.
The report is to include a review and assessment of all pertinent scientific studies, methodologies and data; evaluate potential methodologies for calculating such emissions (including an evaluation of methods for annualizing emissions associated with forest degradation or land conversion); and make appropriate recommendations.
The report, which is to be completed within three years of enactment of the legislation, will be made publicly available and is to “include sufficient information and data such that economists and other scientists with relevant expertise that are not on the National Academies of Science panel can fully evaluate the conclusions of the report.”
Other compromises as represented by the Peterson amendment include:
The definition of renewable biomass was harmonized with the 2008 Farm Bill language for private lands. Environmental safeguards for public lands were preserved.
Biodiesel facilities built before implementation of the 2007 energy bill while be grandfathered into the law in the same fashion as ethanol facilities of the same vintage.