Multiple-Authorship blog platform on issues related to sugarcane cultivation and industrial applications
After more than a year of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced it will not finalize 2014 volume standards under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program before the end of the year. The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) issued the following statement in response, which should be attributed to Elizabeth Farina, UNICA President.
“EPA is at least stepping back from proposed cuts to advanced biofuel targets and ensuring American drivers will continue to benefit from a steady supply of clean renewable fuels like sugarcane ethanol. In 2013, 15 percent of America’s advanced biofuels – 435 million gallons – came from Brazil, delivering at least a 50 percent reduction in emissions compared to gasoline. Slashing the 2014 renewable fuels standard target would have fundamentally threatened both America’s supply of low-carbon fuel and the Obama Administration’s emissions reduction goals.
The Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry has collaboratively worked with the U.S. to lower emissions through the RFS for over seven years, and while we’re relieved this decision doesn’t roll back environmental gains made over that time, EPA has missed a golden opportunity to increase the volume of cleaner fuel flowing to American drivers.
We encourage EPA to publish the 2015 RFS targets as soon as possible so advanced biofuel producers have clarity on production targets before the season starts.”
UNICA is the largest organization representing sugar, ethanol, and bioelectricity producers in Brazil. For more information, visit www.sugarcane.org or join the conversation on Twitter at @CaneBiofuel.
A Ecofys study published yesterday – on behalf of the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the European Vegetable Oil and Protein meal Industry (FEDIOL) – gives new life to biofuels and certainly brings new elements to the debate on ILUC, currently at a standstill. After months of speculation and criticism on the little emission reductions actually provided by biofuels when ILUC is factored in, this study re-energises pro-biofuels arguments. It argues that the European Commission based its conclusions – hence its legislative proposal to amend the RED and FQD – on wrong assumptions and underestimated the benefits of biofuels by as much as 50%. Check this EurActiv articles that provides a useful summary.
In fact, benefits of biofuels should be calculated by comparing the carbon footprint of the fossil fuels they would replace in the market. Ecofys found that in the absence of biofuels, fossil fuels used in the market would not be traditional fuels, as considered by the Commission, but marginal fuels which are mainly unconventional fuels such as oil sands, tar sands and oil shale. The starting assumption of the Commission would therefore considerably underestimate the GHG reduction impact of biofuels. The fossil comparator used by the commission is 83.8 gCO2eq while the study estimates that the marginal GHG emissions reduced by the use of biofuels would amount at 115 gCO2eq.
Without entering into too many details such as estimated carbon intensity and average blend comparator, the key point of this study is that unconventional fuels have a higher carbon footprint compared to traditional fuels and they cover - and are likely to cover even more in the future - a growing share of the market. Calculation of GHG savings for biofuels should therefore be based on this assumption.
As I always argued in my previous blogs, biofuels are one of the few realistically viable ways to decarbonize transport and it is reassuring to see that this study re-legitimises them in their original role. The intense debate on biofuels which took place in recent years resulted in a lack of a clear legislative framework and uncertainties for the future of both the Fuel Quality and the Renewable Energy Directives. On top of all this, the implementation of the FQD is still unfinished, with MEPs currently trying to reject the implementing measure on Article 7a. Needless to say that the biofuels sector will benefit greatly from the extension of the FQD post-2020 and even more if the fossil comparator is adapted to take into account the carbon footprint of non-conventional fuels as recommended by this Ecofys study and by the MEPs advocating for the rejection of the current text of Article 7a, something that has not been done yet for, presumably, political reasons. As the study itself says: “Proper implementation of Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive could provide a strong incentive to avoid the fuels with the worst greenhouse gas performance and thereby reduce the average emission factor of EU transportation fuels […]while at the same time driving improvements in the greenhouse gas performance of biofuels”.
Let’s hope that the Commission will take into account these new findings as well as the call by EU leaders to examine instruments for “renewable energy sources in transport” post 2020.
More on transport and biofuels at our event “Think Energy. Think Brazil. Perspectives on the 2030 Energy and Climate Package” on 19 November!
On 24 October European leaders reached an agreement on the framework which will set the energy and climate scene for the next 15 years. The deal embraces several elements which will form the basis of the legislative proposals to be developed by the European Commission.
I complained in the past already about the lack of ambition of the 2030 Climate and Energy Package in terms of transport-specific targets and I keep on arguing that, if Europe does really want to meet its climate targets, transport should remain high on the agenda.
The conclusions call on the Commission to examine instruments for “renewable energy sources in transport” post 2020 in a comprehensive and technologically neutral way, which could possibly involve an extension of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) after 2020.
The biofuels industry needs certainty after 2020 and an extension of the FQD could provide it. UNICA encourages the European Commission to start discussions on this as soon as possible. My hopes are quite low, especially after I heard that some MEPs in the ENVI Committee, using their power of scrutiny under comitology, tabled objections to the new implementing measure proposed by the Commission on Article 7a of the FQD. Should the objection go through, we could expect additional delays for the implementation of the existing Directive. This would postpone any meaningful decision on fuel quality after 2020.
If you want to hear more on the transport framework post-2020 and on how Brazilian Sugarcane can contribute, join us on 19 November in Brussels for a discussion on “Think Energy. Think Brazil. Perspectives on the 2030 Energy and Climate Package”. Our experts will exchange views with policymakers and E4TECH will present a new study on GHG emissions from road transport by 2030.
Look forward to seeing you at the Residence Palace on 19 November!