Anything that reduces fuel emissions has to be good for the environment, right? WRONG!
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals is faced with precisely this apparent anomaly, being asked by the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) last Wednesday to “reconsider” (read: “stop” or “stop”) the standards of the Biden administration’s fuel mixture, which they say pose a risk to endangered species.
For context, we go back 17 years when the EPA enacted the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which required transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel to be combined with a prescribed, time-bound amount of biofuel. (such as ethanol), as a way to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. For example, in 2006, 4 billion US gallons had to be blended with biofuel. That number jumped to 7.5 billion in 2012. Now, in 2022, the EPA has changed the regulations to require about 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and just over 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels. .
While the prospect of increasing renewable fuels over fossil fuels seems like a clear win for the environment, the CBD argues the opposite in its court petition. Brett Hartl, Director of Government Affairs, points out in the CBD petition that with an increase in crop designation for corn comes increased use of pesticides, which routinely leak into local waterways and threaten sea life. Further, as Hartl explains, expanding cropland designations for biofuels necessarily comes at the expense of shrinking land for food production, which presents threats to food supply security. This is of particular concern at a time when, due to the Ukrainian conflict, capacity has already drastically decreased for global wheat production.
As a result, CBD disputes the EPA’s assessment of the impact of higher volume blending fuels, claiming it is a waste of money for larger agricultural interests while ignoring more immediate solutions and realistic, such as enacting increased manufacture and use of electric vehicles.
The Renewable Fuel Association (“RFA”) dismissed CBD’s concerns, saying their conclusions are based on inaccurate and debunked research.