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Corn+Soybean Digest

Ethanol Can Cut Emissions

Full implementation of the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) by 2022 would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation fuels used in the Midwest by approximately 7.7% compared to 2005 levels, according to a new study. With certain regional "enhancements" to the RFS2 program, the Midwest could readily achieve a 10% GHG reduction by 2022, according to the study, supported in part by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The study was initiated by a coalition of Midwestern agriculture and biofuel stakeholders interested in examining alternatives to a regional Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) being considered by the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA). The study, conducted by Air Improvement Resource, Inc. (AIR), was supported by the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and Monsanto Company, in addition to NCGA, and state corn grower organizations from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.

"The new study shows that the 10% regional GHG reduction originally being sought by the MGA through possible enactment of a Midwest LCFS could be more readily achieved through effective implementation of the federal RFS2," the coalition said. "The RFS2 offers tremendous opportunities for diversifying the Midwest liquid fuels supply, fostering regional economic development and reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector. It is our belief that we should strive to maximize the benefits of the federal RFS2 in the Midwest region before embarking on a path to enact an entirely new and unproven LCFS program to regulate GHGs from transportation."

The study also analyzes the vehicle and refueling infrastructure modifications that would be necessary to accommodate increasing volumes of biofuels in the region resulting from the RFS2. The analysis examines the average amounts of ethanol that would need to be consumed in flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) under various scenarios regarding the volumes of ethanol used in the region, FFV density in the region, pending approval of E15 for conventional automobiles and other factors. For all of the scenarios, "...there is a need for greatly increased availability of FFVs and blender pumps in the Midwest," the study found.

FFVs can operate on any combination of ethanol and gasoline up to 85% ethanol-15% gasoline (E85). Blender pumps (also sometimes referred to as flex-fuel pumps) can dispense any combination of ethanol and gasoline between E10 and E85; typically they are configured to offer E10, E20, E30, E40 and E85.

"Clearly, more FFVs are needed in the Midwest to consume RFS2-required volumes of biofuels," the coalition said. "The data and analysis released today make a compelling case for an FFV mandate and an exponential increase in blender pumps."

After reviewing the analysis from AIR, the coalition developed a set of recommendations for state governments. The recommendations are intended to ensure implementation of the RFS2 in a manner that maximizes the program's benefits and achieves the governors' goal of reducing GHG emissions. Among the recommendations are:

  • Support rapid deployment of FFVs in the Midwest by backing a Federal requirement for all vehicles sold in the United States to be FFV-capable by a date certain.
  • Support rapid development and deployment of blender pump infrastructure in the Midwest by initiating state and local incentive programs to assist retailers in defraying the cost of installing blender pumps (also called flex-fuel pumps).
  • Set a goal for installation of blender pumps in at least half of state retail gasoline outlets by 2022.
  • Support approval of E15 for use in all conventional vehicles.
  • Support initiatives (e.g., grants, tax credits, forgivable loans) to encourage and incent construction of next-generation biofuel facilities as well as technology improvements at current biorefineries that would reduce the carbon intensity of biofuels.
  • Support coordination of state fuel regulations to allow for widespread and unencumbered use of E15 for conventional autos and other mid-level blends for FFVs.
  • Encourage modification of existing permitting and safety listing protocols (e.g., Underwriters Laboratory) for fuel dispensing and storage equipment to allow efficient and timely transition to mid-level ethanol blends for FFVs.

The groups also noted that the new study and recommendations correspond well with a USDA report recently released that urges the development of regional strategies to increase the production, marketing and distribution of biofuels.

The AIR study is available for download and the coalition's full recommendations are available online.

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