U.S. coalition supports indirect land use proposal

By Kris Bevill | October 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted Nov. 12, 2008 at 11:08 a.m. CST

Although the U.S. EPA isn't expected to release a policy proposal for public comment on the specifics surrounding the renewable fuels standard enacted in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 (RFS) until later this fall, groups on both sides of the indirect land use change argument are making their voices heard.

Scientists and biofuel industry members submitted a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on Oct. 23, arguing that more research needs to be done before indirect land use impacts should be included in any policy. (See Scientists ask EPA to delay indirect land use proposal)

Now a coalition of mostly non-profit environmental groups has issued a letter to the administrator stating the case for the inclusion of indirect land-use impacts, stating: "Consideration of all of the science in an open and transparent comment process will be key to ensuring that the regulations accomplish the emissions reductions Congress intended when they directed that indirect emissions from land use changes be included."

The group, consisting of the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Working Group, argues that indirect land use change is the "ripple effect" resulting from converting land from food production to fuel production.

"There is no doubt that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) caused by land use change are substantial, and that those associated with renewable fuel production can easily make the difference between reducing or increasing GHG emissions relative to gasoline," the letter stated. Rather than stunt the advanced biofuels industry by including indirect land use changes to the policy, the group asserted that the inclusion of such changes will help determine which second-generation feedstocks will have the least impact. "Properly done, accounting for indirect land-use will improve the ability of investors and developers to distinguish promising approaches from dead ends and drive investments and innovation towards these feedstocks and technologies," the group stated.

The EPA is not expected to issue a final ruling on the RFS until mid-2009.
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