Multiple-Authorship blog platform on issues related to sugarcane cultivation and industrial applications
Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court not to consider three cases challenging California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) settles a major challenge to America’s low-carbon fuel transition, and brings the full emissions reductions potential of biofuels closer to reality.
At the heart of this lawsuit was methodology CARB established to calculate the carbon intensity of various biofuel’s lifecycle emissions – covering every aspect of biofuel use, from growth to harvest to transportation and eventual consumption of fuels.
Policy That Improves Over Time
To meet CARB’s methodology, biofuel producers must either meet a specified annual intensity or purchase credits to offset any difference. Considering the entire fuel lifecycle is critical to the environmental integrity of biofuels – after all, what good are renewable fuels that burn cleaner than gasoline if emissions associated with production and transportation create a similar pollution profile as fossil fuels?
CARB has repeatedly revisited its lifecycle emissions modeling process to ensure fair regulations as science has evolved, most notably in the area of indirect land use changes (ILUC). The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has consistently supported these decisions, and continues to support the LCFS as a powerful tool in cutting emissions and slowing global warming.
Brazil Proves LCFS Naysayers Wrong
Opponents of CARB’s LCFS – primarily corn-based ethanol and fossil fuel-based gasoline producers – argued the landmark policy discriminates against out-of-state biofuel producers through higher carbon intensity standards that assign weight to long transportation distances, but like today’s Supreme Court decision, the Brazilian experience shows that’s not the case.
Despite ever-stricter standards, CARB has re-iterated sugarcane ethanol has one of the lowest emissions profiles of any biofuel supplying today’s biofuels market – even when our product ships internationally, not just across state borders.
We’re proud of the steps we’ve taken to ensure a sustainable ethanol lifecycle compared to other biofuels, including less frequent replanting and soil tilling requirements, higher fuel production yields, use of leftover stalks and leaves (bagasse) for bioelectricity, and efficient shipping methods.
Implications For Clean Fuel’s Future
CARB’s strict standards requiring transportation fuels sold in-state to be 10% less carbon intensive by 2020 are important to America’s low-carbon transportation future. Not only is California the largest U.S. transportation fuel market, but several other states are also considering adopting similar legislation.
By refusing to hear these challenges to the LCFS, the Supreme Court has both reaffirmed California’s progressive leadership and propped open the door for additional measures intended to maximize the emissions-cutting potential of biofuels.
Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol industry shows assessing the full lifecycle emissions of biofuels works from both an economic and environmental perspective, especially when biofuels producers work with, not against regulators as they improve policy.
We applaud the Supreme Court’s choice to listen to a chorus of voices supporting a low-emissions transportation future by reaffirming the LCFS and keeping truly cleaner fuels flowing to American drivers.
Sometimes, we all need friendly reminders. Our favorite World Cup soccer players get reminded on the field to play by the rules, and we often get reminded about our commitments. Commitments to our family, commitments to our friends, and commitments to our international trading partners.
The United States has commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). WTO member countries have trade obligations, such as commitments to nondiscrimination in terms of product origin.
So consider this blog post a friendly reminder to Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) who last week introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the current conventional ethanol requirements under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and limit the biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and cellulosic biofuel volumes to domestic production only.
By discriminating against foreign biofuel manufacturers, this legislation would violate important American commitments to the WTO.
The bill would also limit America’s access to clean renewable fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more. One such advanced renewable fuel is made from Brazilian sugarcane – an affordable and low-carbon biofuel that brings consumers cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better performance and a lower dependence on oil.
The United States and Brazil are the world’s top two biofuel exporters, and both nations enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of global trade in renewable fuels. But not everyone is aware of this long-lasting and mutually beneficial trading history. So consider it another friendly reminder that the U.S. and Brazil should lead by example in creating a free market for clean, renewable energy.
Legislation that restricts access to advanced biofuels from other countries harms global efforts to develop clean and renewable energy. It also backslides on American commitments to open markets.
Today, European Energy Ministers finally adopted the Council’s position on ILUC, after EU ambassadors passed the Greek compromise last week. Key elements of the positions are a cap for conventional biofuels at 7% and a non-binding sub-target for advanced biofuels at 0.5% with three grounds for Member States to divert from it.
I have expressed already my disappointment for the lack of ambition showed by Member States. This deal doesn’t lead to a better framework for investments in the biofuels sector, especially in advanced biofuels, and the future discussions with the European Parliament do not let envisage any positive developments.
Ahead of the Council today, some delegations (Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Estonia, Poland and Hungary) submitted a joint declaration where they made clear that they wouldn’t accept any agreement which proposes a lower cap for conventional biofuels than the one of 7% included in the deal adopted today. Although I reiterate that a cap is not a good way to move from high-ILUC to low-ILUC biofuels, this is a positive development which makes me understand that Member States are increasingly aware that the 7% cap is really the red line and that a certain level of predictability should be guaranteed for industry’s investments.
All the delegations which took the floor at this morning Council expressed their support for what they consider a reasonable and balanced compromise (only Belgium and Portugal couldn’t accept the deal), but the signatories of the declaration on the 7% cap reiterated that this element should be kept during negotiations with the Parliament and additionally, Spain and Slovakia made clear that also the non-binding nature of the sub-target for advanced biofuels is not negotiable.
Under these circumstances, the next Presidency (Italian) will have the very difficult task of reaching a compromise with the Parliament knowing already that the two key elements on the table are almost impossible to change.
Yesterday I thought: if the 7% cap is not negotiable, what will the key element of the negotiation be? Probably the sub-target for advanced biofuels, but we are all aware on how difficult it was to accept such a low sub-target at 0.5% and now we know that some Member States consider this element non-negotiable as well. Can we realistically expect a compromise to be built on this basis?
With these open questions in mind, let the second reading start!
I look forward to the appointment of the next Rapporteur for the file in the European Parliament – considering that Ms Lepage was not re-elected at the last EU elections – and the beginning of trilateral negotiations. It remains to be seen which group will have the rapporteurship and what will be the overall political balance in the ENVI Committee.
But to know more about all this we’ll have to wait the end of June when the Committees will be formed and later in July when pending reports will be assigned by the groups’ coordinators.
One sure thing will be the time limitations foreseen for the second reading. In fact, the Parliament will have 3 months to adopt, reject or propose amendments to the Council’s position and the Council will have 3 months too to accept or reject the amendments. This means that in the more positive scenario there will be a final decision in October and in the worst case in January 2015.