Final rules to put the Renewable Fuel Standard 2 into place were finally released last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Don Elsbernd, a farmer from Allamakee County in Iowa's northeast corner, is president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. "We know the RFS2 is going to be good news for soybeans and biodiesel. It's also good news for corn based ethanol," he says.
He adds, "We're glad EPA confirmed what we've been saying all along about the environmental benefits of ethanol. EPA has given ethanol a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases over conventional gasoline credits. We're happy about that. But at the same time, we don't feel like EPA has gone far enough in supporting ethanol and biodiesel."
Using "indirect land use change" applies a penalty to corn
"I say that because in their calculations the EPA used the theory of indirect land use," explains Elsbernd, "which actually applies a penalty to corn for land use changes and associated greenhouse gases elsewhere in the world. We at ICGA feel this is not appropriate for a couple of reasons."
1) Corn ethanol is not on a level playing field with other liquid fuels such as gasoline.
2) The other reason is because when you look at trends in yields and acres across the country over the past few years, it's quite obvious that we're growing quite a bit more corn on substantially less acres. So we have the ability to produce this fuel without increasing acres.
Indirect land use has come up in California recently, as that state issued its CARB ruling. Now, it has come out again with this RFS2 verdict. In terms of production of ethanol and corn demand in Iowa, does Elsbernd see much of an impact from this RFS2 standard?
What's he see as the impact of EPA's RFS2 ruling?
Elsbernd answers, "I don't believe at this time we're going to see a big impact. What it does is confirms that corn ethanol will be able to fully fill the 15 billion gallon per year threshold for ethanol use that has been set by RFS2. All the existing ethanol in production will qualify for that, so we're happy for that.
"The thing we need to work on now is over a period of time, increasing that threshold," he adds. "Because as we increase yield per acre, we're going to have more corn that will be available to make fuel from, and eventually we'd like to be able to produce more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol per year."
Regarding the indirect land use issue, what is being done from the corn growers organization standpoint to refute the alleged science behind this? Are we funding some studies? Are we going to see some response here soon?
Is anything being done to get answers on Indirect Land Use?
"The National Corn Growers Association is doing some of this," says Elsbernd "The private economic research group, Informa, has done a study for NCGA. We're constantly sending letters to EPA informing them of our thoughts on the theory of indirect land use. We provide the EPA officials and people who are working on this issue with information on using the correct numbers, acres and real time data as opposed to theoretical data."
Last fall Sen. Grassley had a couple of EPA officials out to a central Iowa farm, to get a grassroots, real-life perspective on corn and soybean production in Iowa. "I think that dialogue and exchange of information was helpful in them making the determinations that EPA has had to make so far.
What about the proposal for mandatory use of E10 ethanol blend in all gasoline sold for road use in the state of Iowa? How does ICGA feel about it?
"I know the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and some other groups are pushing for a 10% ethanol mandate to be passed by the 2010 Legislature But ICGA is supporting the renewable standard we already have existing here in the state of Iowa. It became law several years ago. We believe over a period of time this standard that we already have on the books will give us well beyond 10% ethanol use in the state of Iowa. That's our position on this issue at this point."