Ethanol will play a lead role in a cleaner, greener California

At the end of April, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted the nation’s first Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The state’s energy policy now calls for replacing 20 percent of the state’s petroleum with alternative fuels, including ethanol, and a 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

We believe ethanol is America’s best renewable fuel. It is reliable and affordable now. It’s high-tech, homegrown and on the verge of innovative breakthroughs that will make it even cleaner and greener for the long-term. California has continued to embrace the use of ethanol, and those of us involved in the ethanol industry, including members of Growth Energy, stand ready to do our part in creating a cleaner, greener California.

Today, nearly 1 billion gallons of ethanol are blended into California’s fuel supply, and just last week the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District announced the completion of the largest concentration of E-85 fueling locations west of the Mississippi to serve more than 20,000 vehicles in that region.

Techniques in ethanol production continue to improve, and the ethanol industry has been steadily decreasing its carbon footprint, preparing to compete in a carbon constrained world. Over a recent five-year period, ethanol production decreased energy usage 21.8 percent, decreased water consumption 26.6 percent, while increasing ethanol yield by 6.4 percent. A recent study published in Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology found that modern ethanol plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 59 percent in comparison to gasoline.

One Growth Energy member plant in South Dakota pipes in methane gas from a local landfill and feeds wood waste into a solid fuel boiler to displace more than two-thirds of the plant’s natural gas usage. With the landfill displacement alone, this plant will avoid 26,455 tons of CO2 emissions in 2010.

While we clearly support the goals of the LCFS, we’re concerned with the selective inclusion of penalties for the indirect effects of biofuels while ignoring the indirect effects of other fuels, including oil. We had hoped that the ARB would have taken a more balanced approach to this issue like the agreement reached at the federal level, the Peterson Amendment in the Waxman-Markey legislation that was recently passed by the House of Representatives. Chairman Waxman and Chairman Peterson, along with ethanol producers like Growth Energy and agricultural interests, were able to come together and comprise a solution to indirect land use change provisions that would have unfairly penalized American ethanol producers and farmers for greenhouse gas emissions that they have no responsibility for or control over.

Still, we are pleased that the ARB has committed to evaluating the indirect effects of all fuels as they move forward, and we are committed to working with them to ensure the LCFS uses sound science and creates a level-playing field as we move from making ethanol from corn, to producing it from agricultural waste, wood chips and other biomass materials.

The fact is ethanol is getting better while oil is getting worse. Ethanol is cleaner, greener, renewable, viable and available.

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