Nebraska corn producers disappointed in California action
The Nebraska Corn Board and corn producers across the state were greatly disappointed in the recent approval of the low carbon fuel standard by the California Air Resources Board. The approval will set forth regulations that include questionable land use change and may ultimately alter the market for corn-based ethanol.
"Although we support initiatives that look at reducing greenhouse gases, we cannot support initiatives that include very questionable science and do not take into consideration modern day efficiencies," stated Jon Holzfaster.
Holzfaster, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, said the inclusion of indirect land use change penalties against corn ethanol, no indirect changes to petroleum, and the lack of inclusion of current efficiencies in corn production, distillers grains livestock rations, and ethanol production, may ultimately become a huge barrier for the usage of corn-based ethanol in the California market.
"We have always believed, and current peer reviewed data has substantiated, that corn based ethanol is a renewable fuel that can have profound impact on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum-based gasoline," stated Holzfaster.
The Nebraska Corn Board submitted comments to California ARB based on the continued questionable inclusion of land use change and not including current data that show distillers grains is replacing more than just corn in today's livestock rations, but is also displacing soybean meal. In addition, the Nebraska Corn Board questioned the usage of a model that was not peer-reviewed and used old data in an attempt to estimate land use change.
"The Nebraska Corn Board has taken a very proactive role in not only our comments to California ARB, but utilizing, supporting and understanding the science that our own University of Nebraska provided to California ARB; and, ultimately, we communicated with Governor Schwarzenegger," stated Kelly Brunkhorst, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board.
In its letter to California's governor, the Board outlined the belief that biofuels can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases and that it should be a level playing field of indirect effects, such as land use change, that may be charged against one segment versus another.
California ARB regulations set a stair-stepped goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by 10 percent by 2020 and have given base gasoline (a 10 percent ethanol blend) a carbon intensity value of 95.85. Yet, California ARB has given average Midwest-based corn ethanol a carbon intensity score of 99.40, with nearly a third of that value coming from an indirect land use change penalty that was determined by a computer model that has not been reviewed.
Without that penalty, Midwest-produced corn ethanol would have a carbon intensity score of 69.40, a reduction of 28 percent from the base fuel, easily meeting the targets set out by California ARB.
"With average Midwest corn ethanol having a higher carbon intensity than the base gasoline, then in all essence, Midwest corn-based ethanol is shut out of that market, as the low carbon standard begins to take effect," added Brunkhorst. "We will have to look at alternative pathways to show Nebraska's real ethanol value."
California ARB included indirect land use changes because of the hypothesis that, as corn is converted to ethanol, this results in additional crops being planted elsewhere in this country or around the world. The theory is these "new" crops will be planted in ground that previously was not farmed and, therefore, will release carbon that had been stored in the soil.
"The science behind this theory is uncertain," Brunkhorst said. "Not only have U.S. exports kept up with demand, but there is more corn in storage today than at any time in the last two years. To attribute additional growth in farm land around the world to U.S. corn ethanol seems short-sighted and ignores the fact that one-third of that corn is being returned as livestock feed."