Multiple-Authorship blog platform on issues related to sugarcane cultivation and industrial applications
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known by the acronym “UNICA”) issued the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final renewable volume obligations for 2014-2016 through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It should be attributed to Elizabeth Farina, UNICA President.
“UNICA is heartened by EPA’s recognition the RFS requirements for advanced biofuel can and should increase. Today’s decision appears to leave the door open for continued American access to sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, one of the cleanest and most commercially ready advanced biofuels available today.”
“EPA has taken another step toward a cleaner, healthier environment, and Brazilian sugarcane producers stand ready to make even higher volumes of advanced biofuel available to America. According to the latest estimates, Brazil is on track to produce nearly six percent more sugarcane ethanol this year compared to 2014 – an additional 450,000 gallons. Under the right market conditions, Brazil has the capacity to produce up to two billion additional gallons of this advanced biofuel for export according to installed capacity figures.”
“America and Brazil have built a thriving global biofuels market, creating economic growth and environmental benefits, through good policy implementation. UNICA applauds today’s decision by EPA to maintain that growth by encouraging production of clean, low-carbon fuels.”
# # #
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association is the leading trade association for the sugarcane industry in Brazil, representing 60 percent of the country’s sugarcane production and processing. More information on sugarcane ethanol and its role as an advanced biofuel is available at www.sugarcane.org/rfs
With COP21 around the corner we thought it was important to highlight the way sugarcane ethanol can contribute to tackling climate change, and what are some of the steps which need to be taken in order to use sugarcane ethanol’s full potential to decarbonize the transport sector.
This week, we have published an op-ed which does precisely that on the EurActiv website. You can access it by clicking here.
For your convenience, you can also read the op-ed below. And if you happen to be in Paris and would like to find out more about Brazilian Sugarcane, come and visit our booth in the UNFCCC area.
Cleaner Fuels are necessary to tackle climate change
Imagine that it is Monday, 14 December. A new week is starting. A few days ago, after two weeks of intense rounds of negotiations, world leaders reached a binding agreement to help limit global warming to around 2.7°C. Everyone is happy with it. Poor countries, richer countries, experts, NGOs. It’s over. Finally, a successful COP.
True, it’s less than the original goal of 2°C, but it’s an important step, and the good news is that they agreed to include a five-year review clause, meaning that we actually have a shot at reaching the initial objective in the future, if governments agree to increase their ambition. Everyone can finally rest and prepare for the Christmas holidays.
Soon, it’ll be 2016. So now what?
Say the scenario above happens. Reaching an agreement and committing to honouring it is the first step to dealing with climate change. The second is turning that agreement into reality. We keep hearing that everyone has to play a part in decarbonising the global economy; 2016 will be the year we’ll have to put our money where our mouth is.
The IEA recently released data showing how the global demand for transport fuels has risen systematically since the early 1970s. Realistically, an agreement at COP21 is not going to change this trend anytime soon. Global economies will continue to develop, and so will the number of vehicles on the road and their related emissions.
What we can do however is to make sure that the demand for cleaner transport fuels rises and that their share in the fuel mix increases as well. In other words, we need to make sure the carbon intensity of transport does not follow the same path as its growth, but rather the opposite.
Fuel efficiency gains have been and will continue to be made, but they are likely to be outpaced by demand growth. So, solving the transport emissions issue will have to be dealt with by other means, one of which is using the cleanest biofuels.
The government of Brazil has clearly stated in its climate pledge that the transport sector will have to contribute to the effort, and that it will rely on sugarcane ethanol for this. Why? Because a litre of sugarcane ethanol emits on average 90% less CO₂ than petrol, and reduces local pollutants when compared to diesel.
It is simply the easiest and cheapest way to reduce emissions in the sector, which is why Brazil has indicated in its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) that it would increase the share of sustainable biofuels in the Brazilian energy mix to 18% in 2030 to reduce transport emissions in the country. More specifically, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said sugarcane ethanol and other derivatives would account for 16% of the energy mix in 2030.
At EU level, the debate around biofuels has momentarily stopped with the closure of the ILUC file in April this year. However, transport remains one of the key sectors where emissions cuts will be required in order to meet the 40% GHG emission reduction EU target by 2030. In 2016, the EU will look at transport as one of the three non-ETS sectors (along with buildings and agriculture) where emissions cuts can and must be achieved.
One major issue remains open though. No differentiation is made amongst first generation biofuels. Yet, there are those which have adverse consequences on the environment, but also the ones which are actually sustainable, such as sugarcane ethanol. Never mind the fact that sugarcane residues are also used to produce second-generation biofuels and bioelectricity. The absence of distinction hurts one of the cleanest available transport fuels in the world today.
At EU level, one opportunity to make full use of the advantages of sugarcane ethanol will be the review of the RED, in which a distinction between low- and high-ILUC biofuels can and should be made. This may seem like just a nuance, but it is critical in order to give a role to sustainable first generation biofuels. Recognising this simple fact would make it easy to seize the low-hanging fruit that they are, given how easy it is to blend them to reduce the carbon intensity of other transport fuels for which demand will rise.
One may think that sugarcane ethanol is there to compete with electric vehicles. The opposite is true in fact. We believe that the use of sustainable biofuels is actually complementary with electrification of mobility. Realistically, liquid fuels will retain an important – perhaps the biggest – role in transport in various combinations. Our conviction is that hybrid ‘electric + low-ILUC biofuels’ vehicles will be the optimal formula to cut emissions in transport by 2030. We want to be part of the solution.
Géraldine Kutas is Head of International Affairs at the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).
The Office of Management and Budget has begun reviewing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets for 2014-2016, signaling an end to the long and winding road toward regulatory certainty for America’s advanced biofuels market.
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has supported EPA’s RFS implementation decisions in the past, but formally opposed EPA’s proposal to significantly reduce RFS volume targets for 2014, 2015, and 2016 based on three fundamental issues:
Lower Statutory Volumes Are Unsupported And Unnecessary
Reducing statutory volumes of advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels is unnecessary, in part because Brazil can increase production and export higher volumes of sugarcane ethanol under the right market conditions to help meet EPA goals.
According to the latest sugarcane harvest estimates, Brazil is on track to produce nearly six percent more ethanol this year compared to last – an additional 450,000 gallons. And under the right market conditions, Brazil has the capacity to produce up to 2 billion more gallons of sugarcane ethanol for export to America in future years, according to installed capacity figures from Brazil's National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels (ANP). But sugarcane producers need consistent, long-term policy signals if they are to plan properly and deliver these higher volumes of clean biofuel.
Volume Reductions Outstrip EPA Authority And Undermine RFS Intent
EPA lacks the proper rationale to lower advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels volume targets in the proposed manner and amount, and the RFS statute does not support this action. EPA was never granted complete discretion to reduce advanced biofuels – instead it is only authorized to reduce biofuel volumes when projected volumes are less than minimum applicable standards.
In addition, EPA’s proposed reductions run counter to Congressional intent to increase domestic consumption of low-emission fuel. Congress structured the RFS so advanced biofuels would eventually supplant conventional biofuels in America’s fuel supply, but the proposed rule discourages cleaner fuels while incentivizing less-efficient and more polluting conventional and fossil fuels.
Reducing Clean Fuels Consumption Threatens Climate Goals
Eschewing clean and renewable biofuels in favor of gasoline undermines President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the recently announced bilateral climate agreement between America and Brazil, and both countries’ INDC pledges for December’s COP21 international climate summit.
Transportation fuel generates 28 percent of U.S. emissions and 17 percent of Brazil’s emissions, but EPA and lifecycle analyses from around the world have found sugarcane ethanol is 90 percent cleaner than conventional gasoline on a full lifecycle basis. Ethanol has consistently been proven the cheapest and most efficient fuel feedstock produced at a commercial scale to replace fossil-based transportation fuels. Every gallon of biofuel creates long-term climate benefits as well as short-term public health benefits, and EPA’s proposal threatens climate action.
Don’t Reverse Course On The Road To Sustainable Transportation
America and Brazil have built a global biofuels market through good policy implementation, creating economic growth and environmental benefits. EPA’s proposed RFS volume reductions threaten that growth and hamstring the promise of advanced biofuels to create sustainable transportation.
UNICA urges EPA to not rewrite the RFS program goals before they can be achieved, but if it continues to assert it has authority and rationale to reduce statutory volumes for biofuels, EPA should do responsibly by:
- Only lowering statutory volumes by an absolute minimum, because ample supply of advanced biofuels exists and can meet increased annual volumes.
- Keeping volume requirement reductions for advanced biofuels and renewable fuels above 20 percent in 2015 and 2016, considering statutory reset previsions.
- Changing Equivalence Values for low-lifecycle emission fuels like sugarcane ethanol to help increase advanced biofuel supply and help obligated parties meet statutory volume requirements.
EPA has the power to spur advanced biofuels by maintaining their statutory volume requirements and encouraging production of low-lifecycle emission fuels. Let’s not reverse course on the road to sustainable transportation by artificially lowering demand.