In Washington, a new analysis by Life Cycle Associates found that biofuels consumed under the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) have reduced U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 354 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent since 2008.
“The RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 354 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation,” according to the report. “The GHG reductions are attributed to greater than expected savings from ethanol and other biofuels.” Specifically, the authors ascribe the larger-than-anticipated GHG emissions reductions to: technology improvements in grain ethanol production, increased consumption of low-carbon advanced biofuels, and the steadily rising carbon intensity of petroleum fuels.
Whereas the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a 2005 petroleum “baseline” for estimating RFS2 emissions impacts, the Life Cycle Associates study uses a “dynamic” petroleum baseline that reflects the true emissions impacts associated with U.S. petroleum consumption. The report, which builds on earlier work regarding marginal petroleum emissions, states that “…the advent of new crude oil extraction and processing technologies has raised the aggregate CI of petroleum fuels above the 2005 (EPA) baseline.”
The study found that conventional corn ethanol reduced emissions by an average of 29 percent when compared to the petroleum actually used in 2008, with that reduction growing to 39 percent by 2015. Importantly, these estimates include the best available estimates of prospective “indirect land use change” emissions from Argonne National Laboratory. For context, the estimated 352 million metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions resulting from the RFS2 between 2008 and 2015 is equivalent to the annual emissions from 74 million passenger cars or 1.9 million railcars of coal burned.
To view the report, click here.
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