Federal officials, including former Iowa Governor and current Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, released plans Tuesday for developing renewable fuels. That included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to revise the standards used to determine the impact of renewable fuels on the environment.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) executive director, Monte Shaw, says they’re concerned about the methods used by the E.P.A. to calculate the "indirect impact" of renewable fuels on the amount of greenhouse gases.
Shaw says,"Based on the this theory, and I use that loosely of indirect land use change. In other words the more commodities we use to produce fuels here, it means someone has to go burn down the Brazilian or Indonesian rain forest to produce food crops." Shaw says association doesn’t back the idea of "indirect land use change."
He says they don’t believe the science supports the idea as the last five years there’s been a dramatic increase in biofuel production, but there has been a reduction in the destruction of the rainforests. Shaw says the good news is that the E.P.A. is open to discuss the issue. Shaw says the current ethanol plants are exempt from the greenhouse gas rules.
Shaw says those who are currently involved in ethanol production, don’t have to worry, but he says it’s going to be very important as we move forward with new ethanol production. The E.P.A. will be taking public comment on the proposed rule changes, and Shaw says that’s important for getting Iowa’s side of the story.
He says it’s important for Iowans to comment, even though it may not be a very technical comment. Federal officials also announce the creation of the "Biofuels Interagency Working Group" that’ll be led by Ag Secretary Vilsack. That group will use federal funds to help improve biofuel production and marketing.
Shaw says they are excited about that as there needs to be a more coordinated approach on how to produce the feedstocks and convert them into biofuels. He says there also needs to be a combined effort in creating use for the biofuels. Part of the plan includes using Ag bill money to help shore up the ethanol plants that have had economic troubles.
Shaw says that’s something the I.R.F.A. likes because much of the focus has been on the next generation of biofuels, but he says they first need to shore up the current producers.
"It’s kind of like you’re standing out in front of your house with an architect trying to build a nice new addition onto your existing house, but it’s on fire. And maybe you ought stop and call the fire department and keep what you’ve got to begin with so it serves as the base for that addition," Shaw says, "and that’s what we need to do right now with today’s biodiesel and ethanol producers."
Shaw says it will be good to have Vilsack leading the biofuels working group, but he would feel better if Vilsack was the head of the E.P.A. and overseeing the rules there.