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Old 05-04-2009, 08:16 AM   #1
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Default Ethanol test for Obama on climate change, science

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's commitment to take on climate change and put science over politics is about to be tested as his administration faces a politically sensitive question about the widespread use of ethanol: Does it help or hurt the fight against global warming?

The Environmental Protection Agency is close to proposing ethanol standards. But two years ago, when Congress ordered a huge increase in ethanol use, lawmakers also told the agency to show that ethanol would produce less pollution linked to global warming than would gasoline.

So how will the EPA define greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol production and use? Given the political clout of farm interests, will the science conflict with the politics?

nvironmentalists, citing various studies and scientific papers, say the agency must factor in more than just the direct, heat-trapping pollution from ethanol and its production. They also point to "indirect" impacts on global warming from worldwide changes in land use, including climate-threatening deforestation, as land is cleared to plant corn or other ethanol crops.

Ethanol manufacturers and agriculture interests contend the fallout from potential land use changes in the future, especially those outside the United States, have not been adequately proven or even quantified, and should not count when the EPA calculates ethanol's climate impact.

"It defies common sense that EPA would publish a proposed rule-making with harmful conclusions for biofuels based on incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions," complained Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

He was one of 12 farm-state senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in March, urging the agency to stick to assessing only the direct emissions.

Ethanol, which in the future may come from cellulosic sources such as switchgrass and wood chips, is promoted by its advocates as a "green" substitute for gasoline that will help the U.S. reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, especially foreign oil. That transition is a priority of the Obama White House.

In 2007, Congress ordered huge increases in ethanol use, requiring refiners to blend 20 billion gallons with gasoline by 2015 and a further expansion to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022.

Congress said any fuel produced in plants built after 2007 must emit 20 percent less in greenhouse gases than gasoline if it comes from corn, and 60 percent less if from cellulosic crops.

Meeting the direct emissions would not be a problem. But if indirect emissions from expected land use changes are included, ethanol probably would fail the test.

Nathaniel Greene, director of renewable energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, said that wouldn't mean the end of ethanol.
Ethanol from existing production facilities is grandfathered and "there are ways to produce advanced ethanol's that would comply with the greenhouse thresholds," even using land use climate impacts if the industry chose to adopt them, Greene said.

But farm interests and their allies in Congress are pushing to get the EPA to at least postpone any consideration of the land-use impacts issue, arguing the science surrounding the issue is uncertain.

The senators' letter said that an overreaching regulation by EPA on ethanol's link to climate change "could seriously harm our U.S. biofuels growth strategy by introducing uncertainty and discouraging future investments."

Environmentalists say there have been enough studies on the indirect impact of ethanol on greenhouse pollution to justify the science.

Ignoring the indirect impacts "will undermine the environmental benefits" of the renewable fuels program "and set a poor precedent for any future policies attempting to reduce global warming pollution," 17 environmental group wrote Jackson in response to the senator's plea.

Greene said the EPA's handling of the ethanol rule will be a "a test of our ability to follow sound science" even when it conflicts with the interests of powerful interests.

The environmental organizations noted that Obama has "vowed to make the U.S. a leader on climate change" and put science over politics, and "now is the time to uphold those pledges."

EPA spokeswoman Andora Andy declined to say when an agency proposal -- a holdover issue from the Bush administration -- would be issued. Interest groups on both sides of the debate said it could come in days. The White House Office of Management and Budget concluded its review of the EPA proposal last week.
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Old 05-04-2009, 01:33 PM   #2
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The EPA already went though this when they chose between ethanol and MBTE as oxygenates. Ethanol is really no better than gasoline in terms of emissions. It can reduce CO emissions, but the majority of CO emissions are already trapped by catalytic converters. CO2 emissions are not trapped by catalytic converters and they are higher with ethanol. And given that higher blends of ethanol significantly lower mpg, widespread use will lower average mpg and increase CO2 emissions. The only good things about ethanol are that it's less toxic (compared to MBTE for example) and has the potential to be more environmentally friendly on the generation side (if we can figure out a way to 'grow' it in an environmentally scalable way.)

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Old 05-04-2009, 02:29 PM   #3
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damn EPA can die in a ethanol fire
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:03 AM   #4
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It'll be interesting to see what happens when all this junk science does a head-on with all the ignorant elected whores in DC.
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:27 AM   #5
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I didn't think people were still buying into the man made global warming myth.
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Old 05-05-2009, 05:38 PM   #6
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I have no problem with the idea of man made global warming as an idea. But to say it's definitely happening is a stretch. To say its due to C02 emissions solely is a joke, and the measures given to reduce C02 production are a total $ making scam.
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Old 05-05-2009, 05:57 PM   #7
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Gotta love the corn lobby....when they buy someone they stay that way!
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Old 05-06-2009, 02:15 AM   #8
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So far the comments in here receive a big from people who actually study such things.

Oh, and for those of you interested:


The Obama administration waded deeper into climate regulation yesterday, proposing new standards for alternative motor fuels and setting off a debate among ethanol producers and environmentalists about scientific assumptions that could be worth billions of dollars to industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations are designed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change and to make sure that alternative fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, do not have indirect effects, such as deforestation in other countries, that could inadvertently increase levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But the administration did not take a position on key regulatory issues, instead inviting comment from scientific experts and businesses on how to measure carbon emissions from the full lifecycle of biofuels, from land use to fertilizer to manufacturing process to delivery. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also said that existing corn ethanol distilleries or ones under construction would probably be "grandfathered," or exempt from the new regulations.

Jackson's statement blunted criticism, especially from corn-based ethanol producers that have been targeted for competing with food crops and for using substantial amounts of fertilizer in fields and fossil fuels in distilleries.

In a telephone call with reporters yesterday, Jackson said the administration wanted to make sure that its final rule on renewable fuels is "informed by the best science."

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said his group would "participate aggressively" to shape the final regulations. "There's a great deal of uncertainty about this," he said.

Dinneen said the EPA had failed to count the indirect costs of petroleum production, had underestimated improvements in productivity of corn growers, and had overstated the impact of corn ethanol on U.S. food production and thus exaggerated the expansion of new crop planting in forests and savannahs of places such as Brazil.

"We don't think the theory of indirect land use change will hold up," said Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group. "It's unfairly applied only to ethanol."

Some environmentalists were also concerned about the EPA proposals. The EPA raised the possibility of computing greenhouse gas costs over a 100-year period instead of a 30-year period. The longer time frame would make the benefits of corn-based ethanol seem greater while discounting the initial costs, such as the loss of untilled land, over time. For example, the EPA said corn-based ethanol is 16 percent better than regular gasoline if its costs are calculated over 100 years, but 5 percent worse over 30 years.

"EPA has left open the option that an exception to good science could be made in the case of a favored special interest," said Frank O'Donnell, who heads Clean Air Watch.

But even as politicians and lobbyists sought to protect traditional biofuels, business experts said the recent corn ethanol boom and subsequent crash had soured many investors on such ventures.

"Since then, the focus has basically been on second-generation biofuels. It's given people time to think about alternatives," said Kevin Parker, global head of asset management for Deutsche Bank Group. "It's become clear to us, in the work that we've done, that converting photosynthesis into transport fuel is very inefficient. There's no sense of rolling back the clock on that one. The world has moved on."
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