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Setting the Record Straight on the Environmental Outcomes of the Renewable Fuel Standard

Agriculture, Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Farming/Growing, Federal Agency/Executive Branch, Federal Regulation, Feedstocks, Field/Orchard/Plantation Crops/Residues, Infrastructure, Opinions, Policy, Sustainability, Wisconsin
February 15, 2022

by Geoff Cooper (Renewable Fuels Association) A new report published today (February 14, 2022) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, funded in part by the National Wildlife Federation, purports to examine the “environmental outcomes” of the Renewable Fuel Standard. In keeping with their previous “research” on biofuels and the RFS, the authors of this new paper precariously string together a series of worst-case assumptions, cherry-picked data, and disparate results from previously debunked studies to create a completely fictional and erroneous account of the environmental impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The claims in this report simply don’t align with reality and the facts on the ground, and the paper reads more like a fantasy novel than a genuine piece of academic literature. It should not be taken seriously.

In fact, when related research from some of the same authors was released several years ago, representatives from RFA and corn grower organizations met with this study’s lead author, Tyler Lark, at the University of Wisconsin, in an attempt to begin a constructive conversation about today’s ethanol industry and the real impacts of biofuels policy.

At that time, we shared data and information with Lark and his colleagues and asked how we could collaborate on research. We asked how we could work together to ensure their error-ridden satellite analysis of land-use changes was grounded in reality. We never heard back from them.

RFA is always open to having an honest, fact-based discussion about the impacts of ethanol and the RFS on the environment and economy. We have a great story to tell, and the data to back it up. Ethanol already reduced GHG emissions by roughly half compared to gasoline, and we are on a trajectory to achieve a net-zero emissions carbon footprint for ethanol by 2050 or sooner. Unfortunately, the authors appear more interested in slandering farmers and getting salacious headlines than examining the facts.

Click here for a more detailed rebuttal from RFA that offers key facts about ethanol’s environmental impacts that were purposely omitted from the paper. READ MORE

Preliminary Rebuttal to PNAS Report: “Environmental outcomes of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard” (Lark et al.) (Renewable Fuels Association)

Environmental outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Ethanol Less Green Than Gas, Study Funded by Biofuel Critics Says (Bloomberg)

Ag Policy Blog: Study Challenges GHG Benefits of Corn Ethanol and the RFS (DTN Progressive Farmer)

At bioenergy crossroads, should corn ethanol be left in the rearview mirror? (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

U.S. corn-based ethanol worse for the climate than gasoline, study finds (Reuters)

How Corn Ethanol for Biofuel Fed Climate Change (Civil Eats)

The Science Speaks for Itself on Biofuels, GHG Reductions and Land Use (Growth Energy)

Electric vehicles run over ethanol and gas (Reuters)

Mauren: Why are we still growing ethanol? (Iowa State Daily)

Ethanol isn’t as green as you might think, researchers say (Renewable Energy World)

New study casts doubt on ethanol’s climate benefits (The Hill)

RFA Refutes Latest Negative Study on the RFS (WNAX)

Corn ethanol no better—and probably worse—than burning gasoline, study says — Efforts to reduce carbon pollution using ethanol appear to have backfired. (Ars Technica)

ACE corrects misrepresentations of RFS environmental outcomes (Biofuels Digest)

Ethanol no better than gasoline, study finds; UW scientists seek better plant fuels (LaCrosse Tribune)

 ADMIN STANDS BY BIOFUELS:  (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Letter: Corn ethanol is the solution we need (Iowa State Daily)

SLAM! Shutting the File on the Tyler Lark Anti-Ethanol Study +VIDEO (The Auto Channel)

Faulty Outcomes From Faulty Environmental Reports: Making Sense out of Nonsense (The Auto Channel)

Greg Gutfeld Presents Idiotic, Completely Wrong Attack on Ethanol +VIDEO: Filled with so much misinformation was it meant to be a joke? (The Auto Channel)

Argonne National Laboratory Certifies The Auto Channel’s Position on Tyler Lark Anti-Ethanol Study: It’s nice to have America’s top research lab confirm what we’ve said! (The Auto Channel)

Comments on “Environmental Outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard” (Argonne National Laboratory)

 

Excerpts from Renewable Fuels Association:  Below are a number of key facts that were purposely omitted from the new report by
Lark et al.

FACT: Recent studies show that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 40-50 percent compared to gasoline, even when emissions from hypothetical land use changes are included.

FACT: The law establishing the RFS2 prohibits the use of crops from newly expanded cropland.

FACT: According to EPA, U.S. cropland has decreased—not expanded—since the RFS2 was adopted in 2007.

FACT: Corn acreage has been relatively flat since the RFS2 was adopted in 2007.

FACT: The additional corn supply needed to meet increased ethanol demand has come primarily from yield increases and secondarily from crop switching—not from acreage expansion.

FACT: The amount of fertilizer required to produce a bushel of corn has fallen dramatically in recent decades.

FACT: The methodology used by Lark et al. to estimate land use changes is highly flawed and has been rejected after rigorous critique by the scientific community.   READ MORE

 

Excerpt from The Auto Channel: For example, I’ve written and published a few stories in rebuttal to the Lark UofW study. One was to the original website that published information about the study: Faulty Outcomes From Faulty Environmental Reports.

Another was to Greg Gutfeld of FOX News who featured the Tyler Lark report on his show in mid-February: Greg Gutfeld Presents Idiotic, Completely Wrong Attack on Ethanol.

As I’ve written in the above rebuttals to Tyler Lark and Greg Gutfeld, the report released by Mr. Lark and his associates is not a modern evaluation of ethanol fuel production, it is nothing more than a rehashing of the nonsensical studies written by a bug professor from Cornell, named David Pimentel, and an associate from UC Berkeley named Tad Patzek. Those anti-ethanol studies were sponsored by the oil industry, and they were roundly attacked and refuted almost immediately after their publication. The attacks came from many sides including other academics and their schools. One of the harshest rebukes came from Mr. Patzek’s own institution, the University of California at Berkely. Interestingly, Mr. Patzek left Berkeley soon after the disputation and joined the staff at the University of Texas at Austin – you know, Texas, as in the home of the so-called “American” oil industry. Patzek is now Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Director of the Upstream Petroleum Engineering Center at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia – you know, Saudi Arabia, as in the home of the global oil industry.

Now, you might say, Pimentel and Patzek’s fallacious studies have nothing to do with Tyler Lark’s study, and that he doesn’t even cite them in the study’s footnotes. That’s correct, the names David Pimentel and Tad Patzek are not listed in the study. However, Tyler Lark and his fraternity club do cite fallacious studies from people like Tim Searchinger and John DeCicco, who did rely on the Pimentel-Patzek crap. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the Lark study is tainted by the Pimentel-Patzek reports. READ MORE

 

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