Industry reaction: grateful for Obama support, ready to directly tackle EPA indirect land use

By Kris Bevill | May 04, 2009
Web exclusive posted May 5, 2009, at 2:41 p.m. CST

Ethanol industry members had reason to celebrate following a joint conference held May 5 by heads of the USDA, U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE, announcing that the Obama administration called for increased and immediate financial support for the biofuels industry. The celebration was short-lived however, as the EPA simultaneously announced it had decided to include indirect land use change (ILUC) considerations in its proposed ruling for implementation of the second renewable fuel standard (RFS2).

"I think the president has sent an incredibly important signal today that biofuels are going to be a key component in his strategy to address, energy, economic and environmental challenges," Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said. "We also want to applaud the EPA for their work in getting a rule out. We want the debate to begin [concerning ILUC]." Dinneen said the administration "wisely chose" to subject ILUC effects to peer-review and that the RFA will be participating aggressively throughout the process.

"The President's directive will ensure that science, not politics, determines the future of biofuels, which will surely disappoint opponents of ethanol whose [public relations] campaign has been designed to destroy public policy support for ethanol," said Brian Jennings, executive vice president at the American Coalition for Ethanol. "We encourage the [newly formed] Biofuels Interagency Working Group, led by USDA secretary Vilsack, to require fossil fuels [to] undergo the same lifecycle analysis that has been imposed on biofuels. The president's interagency working group is the perfect place to peer review and scrutinize the assumptions that have been made to date by EPA regarding the carbon intensity of biofuels and fossil fuel, and to ensure that science drives how clean energy policies are crafted in the future."

Growth Energy co-chairman Wesley Clark said the group is "encouraged and heartened" by the president's support for ethanol. "The administration understands that the next generation of biofuels will be built on the shoulders of today's ethanol industry and infrastructure," he said.

Poet LLC CEO Jeff Broin expressed concern over the EPA's proposed ILUC rule. "While many scientists have found significant flaws in the models used to calculate indirect land use change, I think the very concept is flawed and stems from a lack of understanding of ethanol and agriculture," he said. "I am encouraged that the EPA administrator has pledged to subject indirect land use change to peer-review because I don't think the theory will hold up."

The EPA will subject its ILUC proposal to peer-review as well as the obligatory 60-day public commentary period. It is expected that industry members and organizations will immediately begin to submit their comments on the rule.

National Corn Growers Association President Bob Dickey said the organization will be working closely with the EPA to ensure scientific data is used to calculate emissions. "We look forward to the opportunities to establish that biofuels production can be achieved without land use changes," Dickey said. "The corn and ethanol industries have a great story to tell and we look forward to telling it."

For more information on the joint announcement, read "Obama calls for increased federal biofuels support, EPA proposes indirect land use policy."