California Air Resources Board Votes to Include Unfair, Unproven Theory in Regulations

Washington – Today, the California Air Resources Board voted to enact a standard that unfairly penalizes biofuels as compared to other fuels, including gasoline.

“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. It is unfair to selectively single out the indirect effects of one fuel pathway while ignoring the significant indirect effects of all other fuels, including petroleum. Today’s decision puts another road block in moving away from dependence on fossil fuels and stifles development of the emerging cellulosic industry.”

The regulation adopted by the ARB unfairly penalizes biofuels by adding an “indirect land use change” figure to the carbon intensity of biofuels.

Growth Energy argued that applying indirect effects only to biofuels set an unequal standard since other fuels also have indirect greenhouse gas emissions effects. However, Growth Energy is pleased the ARB has agreed to continue its study of indirect effects, including indirect land use change as well as the indirect effects of all other transportation fuels. Indeed, in a letter to Growth Energy sent by ARB Chairman Mary Nichols yesterday, she noted that an “ongoing investigation” was needed to “evaluate the land use and other indirect effects of all transportation fuels.”

A study looking at one indirect effect from petroleum was published in the academic journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining. The authors from the University of Nebraska found that the indirect emissions from safeguarding oil supplies in the Middle East double the carbon intensity of our gasoline imports from that part of world. This is just one of the many potentially significant indirect effects of fossil fuels that deserves further analysis.

Today’s ethanol has been getting cleaner, greener, and more efficient. Over a recent five-year period, ethanol production saw a 21.8 percent decrease in energy usage while corn yields increased by 6.4 percent. A recent study published in Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology found that modern ethanol plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 59 percent in comparison to gasoline.

“The inclusion of an indirect land use change penalty against ethanol is not based on universally accepted science, puts our industry at an unfair disadvantage and would likely lead to increased dependence on foreign oil and stall efforts to create a greener economy,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy’s CEO. “We’re very supportive of a low carbon fuel standard because ethanol is a low carbon fuel. Corn ethanol can thrive if all fuel pathways are calculated on a level playing field.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, promise to reduce GHG emissions by 86 percent relative to gasoline. The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture found that 1.3 billion tons of U.S. biomass feedstock is potentially available for the production of biofuels – more than enough biomass to meet the new renewable fuel standard (RFS) mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Further, a recent study by Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors found that plant and forestry waste and dedicated energy crops could sustainably replace nearly a third of gasoline use by the year 2030.


About Growth Energy

Growth Energy is a group committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy. Growth Energy members recognize America needs a new ethanol approach. Through smart policy reform and a proactive grassroots campaign, Growth Energy promotes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and creating American jobs at home. More information can be found at