Maintain American Access to Clean, Advanced Biofuels
Congress in 2007 significantly expanded a program requiring increasing volumes of renewable fuel in America’s energy supply with the goal of improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The law – known as the renewable fuel standard (RFS) – calls for Americans to use more renewable fuel each year, incrementally growing the requirement to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Congress capped conventional corn ethanol at 15 billion gallons to stimulate innovation and development of advanced biofuels that offer superior environmental benefits.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the RFS and determines which fuels qualify as advanced biofuels. The key condition for this designation is reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to fossil fuels. EPA identifies Brazilian sugarcane ethanol as an advanced biofuel because it reduces greenhouse gases by 61% compared to gasoline.
EPA shocked the biofuels community in 2013 by proposing to slash RFS requirements for advanced biofuels. After an outcry from stakeholders across the country, the EPA delayed its proposal so the agency could consider other alternatives. In May 2015, EPA unveiled a new plan setting the advanced biofuel standard for 2014 at a level that reflects actual production (2.68 billion gallons) and gradually increasing the required volumes for 2015 (2.9 billion gallons) and 2016 (3.4 billion gallons). These amounts are significantly below the levels Congress included in the 2007 legislation. EPA has committed to finalizing the RFS requirements for 2014-2016 by November 30, 2015.
While Brazilian sugarcane biofuel producers are disappointed that EPA’s proposal significantly reduces target volumes for advanced biofuels below Congressionally mandated levels, we are pleased to see growing requirements for advanced biofuels in 2015 and 2016. This approach leaves the door open for continued American access to sugarcane ethanol, one of the cleanest and most commercially ready advanced biofuels available today.
This advanced biofuel from an American ally plays a modest but important role supplying the United States with clean renewable fuel. From 2012 through 2014, more than one billion gallons of sugarcane biofuel imported from Brazil flowed into American vehicles. During this time, sugarcane ethanol has comprised only 2% of all renewable fuels consumed by Americans, but has provided nearly 15 percent of the U.S. advanced biofuel supply.
Congress designed the RFS to stimulate renewable fuels like sugarcane ethanol that lower global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases compared to gasoline and other fossil fuels. This advanced biofuel is a reliable option for diversifying energy supplies and improving U.S. energy security so Americans are not dependent on any one source or country. Americans deserve access to cleaner fuels, and EPA should protect the integrity of the RFS program by maintaining the volume requirements for advanced biofuels.
As the world’s largest ethanol producers and exporters, the United States and Brazil enjoy the benefits of global biofuel trade. Together, the two countries have built a global biofuels market providing clean, affordable and sustainable solutions to our planet’s growing energy needs.
Brazilian sugarcane producers are making investments to expand production, and Americans can depend on more advanced biofuel from sugarcane. Brazil currently produces more than seven billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol each year and typically makes between 400 million and one billion gallons of its annual production available for other countries to import. By 2020, Brazilian sugarcane producers and the California Air Resources Board estimate that the U.S. may import between 850 million and 1.75 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol to satisfy America’s demand for low-carbon biofuels.
The benefits of using sugarcane ethanol are cleaner air and a healthier planet. Those benefits will grow as Americans consume more advanced biofuels.