Five Things You Need to Know about the ‘Food vs Fuel’ Debate
by Emmanuel Desplechin (Politico/ePURE) The European Commission wants to phase out the use of crop-based biofuels in Europe, even though biofuels like renewable ethanol are currently the main driver of EU transport decarbonization. They also deliver significant greenhouse gas savings – on average, 64 percent for European ethanol.
Why would the Commission make such a sudden swerve in its policy direction, after having said for years that biofuels are vital to meeting EU climate and energy goals? The Commission now calls these biofuels “food-based” and claims that the wider public no longer supports the technology. But on both of those counts it is wrong.
Claims that biofuels production has driven up food prices, taken the food from hungry people or had a negative impact on land use have been widely disproven by several studies, including the Commission’s own research. The production of renewable ethanol in Europe actually contributes to food security. And people across the EU remain strongly in favor of it: A recent EuroPulse survey
found that 68 percent of Europeans want policies that support the use of crop-based biofuels in transport.
So before the EU takes a wrong turn on the road to decarbonization
, consider these five things you need to know about the so-called “food vs fuel” debate in Europe:
- Forget ‘food vs fuel’ – it’s ‘food AND fuel’ ... In fact, European ethanol production uses a minuscule share of the EU grain harvest, only 2 percent (net) in 2015 – not enough to reduce grain supply to food markets or affect food prices. ... In other words, in Europe the additional grain demand for biofuels has been met through agricultural productivity increases, not by taking away supply from other uses, such as food. ... United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization confirmed that world grain production and stocks will hit a record high in 2017 and outstrip demand – meaning more grain is available now than ever before. Oversupply of grain can destabilize agricultural markets – so why not use some of it to produce clean-burning, low-carbon biofuel and stabilize market prices at the same time?
- Food prices have not increased because of biofuels production ... As the World Bank has pointed out, food price increases in general are more linked to ups and downs in the crude oil market than the production of biofuels. Put more simply: Biofuels production has gone up dramatically over the last decade – increasing nearly 60 percent since 2008 in Europe – but global food prices have decreased by 20 percent during the same period. ... The truth is that global prices of cereals – which make up by far the largest share of feedstock used to produce European ethanol – have declined over the last decade, by almost 40 percent.
- Biofuels production actually contributes to the food supply Every tonne of cereals used by our industry produces as much animal feed as it does clean-burning, low-carbon ethanol fuel. ... Domestic animal feed production is strategically important because Europe currently imports 70 percent of its animal feed needs in the form of protein crops and manufactured animal feed.
- Renewable EU ethanol is produced sustainably in Europe – there are no ‘land grabs’ ... In 2015, ethanol production in Europe used 14 million tonnes of EU-grown crops and residues that were produced on less than 1 percent of EU agricultural land, according to agricultural yield data from the Commission’s Joint Research Centre.
- Biofuels production helps Europe’s struggling farmers ... In 2015, the production of crop-based biofuels (both biodiesel and ethanol) in Europe generated purchases of 28 million tonnes of EU-grown farm produce, bringing at least €6.6 billion direct revenue for EU farmers. READ MORE and MORE (Euractiv)
UAI Coalition Challenges Clean Air Act Interpretation
by Dave VanderGriend (Urban Air Initiative/Ethanol Producer Magazine) For decades, the U.S. EPA has insisted that it gets to decide how much ethanol can be used in gasoline. If ethanol producers want higher ethanol blends sold to ordinary (nonflex-fuel) vehicles, they must ask EPA for permission. Until recently, EPA said no more than 10 percent. In 2011, EPA said 15 percent in some vehicles, but not others. But EPA has no legal authority to impose these caps on ethanol’s concentration.
Urban Air Initiative, along with a coalition of environmental organizations, ethanol producers and farm organizations, recently filed comments telling EPA that its regulatory ruse has gone too far. Contrary to EPA’s assumption, Congress did not intend for EPA to stand guard over every added drop of ethanol in gasoline.
The occasion for Urban Air Initiative’s comments was EPA’s latest bittersweet bargain for ethanol, the proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule. In the REGS rule, EPA agreed not to impose certain compliance burdens on ethanol used in flex-fuel vehicles. In exchange, the ethanol industry would have to accept a slew of new fuel regulations, including a cap that would limit ethanol to no more than 15 percent in all but flex-fuel vehicles.
Flex-fuel vehicles account for only 6 percent of the vehicle market, and their share is not growing. EPA starting phasing down flex-fuel vehicle credits in 2015, replacing them with generous credits for electric vehicles.
Thus, although the REGS rule’s goal is to “facilitate further expansion of ethanol blended fuels,” in the long-term, the rule will probably have the opposite effect.
By focusing on the sub-sim law, EPA has ignored 211(c). Under that section, EPA bears the burden of proving that ethanol is harmful, but EPA has instead placed the burden of proving the safety of every added drop of ethanol on the ethanol industry. This defies the will of Congress and the courts’ past admonishment against interpreting the sub-sim law to circumvent the requirements of section 211(c).
Correcting EPA’s interpretation of the sub-sim law would provide immediate relief for the ethanol industry. EPA would no longer wield the Clean Air Act to deter the sale of midlevel ethanol blends. And while EPA could control ethanol based on evidence of environmental harm, such evidence is unlikely to be forthcoming—the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that ethanol reduces vehicle pollution and increases efficiency.
The widespread availability of higher ethanol blends would also encourage the development of vehicles optimized to take advantage of ethanol’s high octane value. READ MORE
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Don Siefkes (E100 Ethanol Group/Biofuels Digest) ... When the CARB (California Air Resources Board) refers to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), they are talking only at the tailpipe and every time they or the Wall Street Journal uses the ZEV designation, it should be followed by the phrase “at the tailpipe only.” You have to make the electricity to run electric vehicles and that process emits CO2. READ MORE
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ASTM Approves New 100 Octane Standard that Could Boost Ethanol Blending
by Meghan Sapp (Biofuels Digest) In Pennsylvania, a
new ASTM International standard that supports 100 octane fuel could help drive innovation in the auto industry as cars with higher-performance engines are introduced into the global marketplace.
This new standard responds to a years-long effort by engine manufacturers and others to create a broadly accepted specification for this higher-octane fuel which can withstand higher compressions before igniting, thus extracting more energy from a given quantity of fuel.
The new standard (D8076, Specification for 100 Research Octane Number Test Fuel for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engines) was developed by a leading global standards organization, ASTM International, and its committee on petroleum products, liquid fuels, and lubricants (D02).
American Coalition for Ethanol welcomed a recently published ASTM International standard, which creates a broadly accepted specification for high-octane fuel that could help not only drive innovation in the auto industry, as cars with higher performance engines are introduced into the global marketplace, but growth within the ethanol industry, as these engines can utilize ethanol’s powerful octane boost with fuel blends between 25 and 40 percent. READ MORE and MORE (ASTM)
Excerpt from ASTM: ASTM International member Robert McCormick notes that car engine manufacturers are looking to reduce gasoline consumption by developing engines with: higher compression ratios, higher power densities, increase turbocharger boost pressures, smaller swept displacement volume (downsizing), and lower engine speeds (downspeeding).
“Engines that use these technologies require a significantly higher octane fuel than what is widely available to consumers today to achieve their full efficiency potential,” says McCormick, principal engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Automakers must design their engines to operate on a common fuel that is broadly available in the marketplace, and this new specification is a crucial step toward commercialization.”
The new standard will help define a test fuel that all engine designers throughout the global auto industry can use. It could also help specify fuels for fleet trials of prototype vehicles.
In 2015, after reviewing government and industry efforts to improve spark-ignition engine design, car engine manufacturers asked ASTM International’s subcommittee on gasoline and gasoline-oxygenate blends (D02.A0.01), part of D02, to develop the new standard.
To purchase standards, visit www.astm.org and search by the standard designation, or contact ASTM Customer Relations (tel +1.877.909.ASTM; email@example.com). ASTM welcomes participation in the development of its standards. Become a member atwww.astm.org/JOIN. READ MORE