California has become the first state in the Union to mandate carbon-based reductions in transportation fuels. Late last week the California Air Resources Board approved a phased-in reduction starting in 2011, with a goal of shrinking carbon impacts 10% by 2020. Many predict the ruling will be replicated in other parts of the country and adopted by federal regulators.
Ethanol advocates challenged the report's findings, disputing that their corn-based production had a significant impact on greenhouse-gas increases elsewhere. But they also suggested that petroleum and other fuels were not given the same treatment. Nichols did agree to an "ongoing investigation" into both the direct and indirect effects on land use of all transportation fuels and will allow suppliers to independently certify their feedstocks and processes.
"We're disappointed with the Board's vote," said General Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy. "This was a poor decision, based on shaky science, not only for California, but for the nation. Today's decision puts another road block in moving away from dependence on fossil fuels and stifles development of the emerging cellulosic industry."
Clark said the regulation adopted by the ARB unfairly penalizes biofuels by adding an indirect land use change figure to the carbon intensity of biofuels.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman called the CARB decision the absolute worst move at the worst possible time. He said the board is unfairly punishing renewable, American-grown biofuels, and has created greater market demand for imported petroleum products.
"The standard put in place measures the indirect land use for biofuels without measuring the indirect land use for other fuel," Stallman said. "The board has applied a false measurement to American crops that are grown and will continue to be grown regardless of their end use."
National Corn Growers Association President Bob Dickey said board members ignored important estimates of corn yield growth trends as well as the expertise of more than 100 scientists, who disagreed with the proposal's one-sided focus on indirect land use changes that will only penalize biofuels.
"We may lose a tremendous opportunity to spur economic growth in agricultural communities and it will cost us the opportunity to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Dickey said.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the ruling is disappointing and unfortunate. Johnson believes a fairly and appropriately crafted low carbon fuel standard could spur opportunities for renewable fuels, but California's scientifically dubious interpretation of international indirect land use change is an unnecessary setback to reducing dependence on fossil fuels.