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RFA Blasts EPA Science Advisory Board for ‘Specious’ Report on Corn Ethanol and Carbon Emissions

In a letter today to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, the Renewable Fuels Association blasted EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) for its recent report making “specious” and unfounded claims about corn ethanol’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. In a draft “commentary” sent to Regan earlier this week, the SAB attempted to downplay the climate benefits of corn ethanol and recommended that the EPA conduct more extensive research on ethanol’s carbon footprint.

“The overwhelming preponderance of scientific analyses and empirical data clearly show that corn starch ethanol significantly reduces GHG emissions relative to the gasoline it replaces,” wrote RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “We adamantly disagree with the SAB’s statement that ‘the best available science’ suggests there are ‘minimal or no climate benefits’ related to substituting corn ethanol for gasoline. Indeed, the best available science shows just the opposite.”

Cooper pointed to a long list of research confirming ethanol’s climate benefits by government entities such as the Departments of Energy and the Agriculture and the California Air Resources Board, as well as major universities. Studies from these institutions all show corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 50 percent compared to gasoline.

Cooper’s letter also raised concern about the “opaque and biased” process used by the SAB to convene a work group to examine the GHG impacts of the RFS and corn ethanol. “No scientists with biofuels industry expertise were invited to participate in the work group,” the letter notes. “However, the group included the chief scientist from a New York-based environmental lobbying and political advocacy group that has lobbied for repeal of the RFS,” referencing the chief scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Cooper said he intends to bring these concerns up in his testimony at the Sept. 21 public meeting of the SAB in Washington. He urged EPA to continue its work on studying the issue—but objectively.

“While we strongly disagree with many of the assertions in the SAB’s commentary, we do support their recommendation that EPA ‘conduct more extensive research into the role the RFS plays in reducing GHG emissions,’” he wrote. “Any objective, science-based analysis will show that the RFS—and corn ethanol specifically—play an important role in decarbonizing our nation’s transportation sector.”

Information on ethanol’s carbon footprint can be found here.

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