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|President Barack Obama's promise to
battle climate change will soon be tested as his administration
faces questions on whether ethanol hurts or helps global warming.
The Environmental Protection Agency will soon issue new ethanol
Two years ago, Congress ordered an increase in ethanol use, and
asked the EPA to show that ethanol produced less pollution linked to
Environmentalists say the agency must factor in more than just the
direct, heat-trapping pollution from ethanol and its production to
show the substance’s effect on climate.
They also want the EPA to factor "indirect" impacts on climate
change from changes in land use as it is cleared to harvest ethanol
Ethanol manufacturers don’t believe these factors have been
adequately quantified, and do not want the EPA to use them as the
agency calculates ethanol's climate impact.
"It defies common sense that EPA would publish a proposed
rule-making with harmful conclusions for biofuels based on
incomplete science and inaccurate assumptions," said Sen. Charles
Grassley is one of 12 farm-state senators, both Democrats and
Republicans, who asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to only assess
Ethanol is promoted as a "green" substitute for gasoline that can
help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Congress ordered increases in ethanol use in 2007, requiring
refiners to blend 20 billion gallons with gasoline by 2015. The
number is required to increase to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022.
In addition, lawmakers required that any fuel produced in plants
built after 2007 must emit 20 percent less in greenhouse gases than
gasoline if it comes from corn, and 60 percent less if from
cellulosic crops, such as switchgrass and woodchips.
The inclusion of indirect emissions into the EPA’s estimates would
cause ethanol to fail the test.
According to Nathaniel Greene, of the Natural Resources Defense
Council, an environmental advocacy group, failure wouldn't mean the
end of ethanol.
Greene added that there are ways to produce advanced ethanols that
would meet the land use climate impacts if the industry chose to
Still, farm interests are pushing Congress to get the EPA to
postpone consideration of the land-use impacts issue, saying the
scientific data is uncertain.
The senators' letter warned the EPA that negatively linking ethanol
to global warming "could seriously harm our U.S. biofuels growth
strategy by introducing uncertainty and discouraging future
Environmentalists believe there is enough evidence for the EPA to
factor in indirect emissions.
Greene said the EPA’s response will be "a test of our ability to
follow sound science" even when it conflicts with interest groups.
Environmental groups are asking Obama to fulfill his promise "to
make the U.S. a leader on climate change" and put science before
Andora Andy, EPA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the upcoming
Interest groups believe it will come in days.
The White House Office of Management and Budget reviewed the EPA
proposal last week.