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Will EPA’s biofuel expansion plan delay electric vehicle adoption?

The EPA is preparing to set new standards to expand incentives for biofuels and possibly provide cleaner electricity to charge EVs. But the proposal has drawn criticism from some environmental groups, who say it inadvertently supports the internal combustion engine market.

Agencies on Thursday release proposals Renewable fuel standards the 2023-2025 target, which calls for an increase in all categories, including ethanol, cellulosic biofuels, biomass diesel and “advanced biofuels”.

While the system is still based on the gallons equivalent of ethanol, the proposal includes a provision that would allow utilities to use biomethane for the first time—from sources such as renewable biomass or landfills. fill—to get electricity to charge electric vehicles.

The rise of biofuels, and especially ethanol, has drawn criticism from environmental groups that favor clean cars. For instance, the Center for Biodiversity claims it will reduce or delay EV adoption and cause damage to the environment.

Corvette E85

Corvette E85

The group is concerned that too much additional land will be converted from natural habitats to farmland to meet demand for corn-based ethanol. The group says there are also fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers on corn grown for fuel, noting that those substances can run off and contaminate streams and rivers. .

“The reality is that as long as the EPA fails to accelerate the necessary transition to electric vehicles, biofuels are only going to be enough,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biodiversity. help drive the ICE market”. “It serves almost no other legitimate purpose.”

Jeremy Martin, fuel policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists and senior scientist for the Clean Transportation Program, doesn’t see the problem that way. Since the proposed rule, which is currently in the public comment phase, includes transport electricity generated from bio-methane for the first time in the calculations, it is “on the one hand.” certain positives for electric vehicles,” he said.

2016 Ford F-150 CNG convertible

2016 Ford F-150 CNG convertible

Biomethane is a product very close to natural gas. For many years it qualified under the Renewable Fuels Standard framework, but only for internal combustion vehicles.

“That gave a significant impetus to the expansion of CNG vehicles,” explains Martin. “But now you can use it to generate electricity.”

While it is difficult to calculate the impacts that will occur, the ability of utilities to earn credits for using biomethane can replace more coal, for example, and improve emissions. related to charging your EV.

Ryan Reynolds Nissan Leaf Spokesperson

Ryan Reynolds Nissan Leaf Spokesperson

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was written before the Nissan Leaf was announced and before the Tesla Roadster appeared. The law has required a certain amount of biofuels to be blended into the national fossil fuel supply up to this point. However, the original law didn’t cover biofuel volumes after 2022, so the EPA is poised to set its own Renewable Fuels Standard target for the first time—while adhering to the original framework.

“That’s an unfortunate limitation of this law, which is that it defines a fuel,” Martin said.

Wind and solar don’t meet the definition of fuel — which is set to directly replace petroleum-based transportation fuels, heating oils, or jet fuels — so they don’t fall under the same credit system.

Offshore wind farm - Netherlands

Offshore wind farm – Netherlands

The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, for example, is newer and recognizes that the idea of ​​fuel has evolved in the age of electric vehicles including wind and solar.

Consumer Reports, which has previously criticized ethanol, noted that the proposal would be “an important piece of the decarbonization puzzle”, noting that these biofuels reduce exhaust emissions from vehicles already on the road.

2006 Chevrolet Silverado E85 Handyman Concept

2006 Chevrolet Silverado E85 Handyman Concept

Environmental groups that prioritize land and water have reason to be concerned, but that is likely to extend to an assessment that it worse for global warming than gasoline, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences last year. Research shows that crop production using Ethanol uses a lot of carbon and leads to reduced water quality, increased fertilizer use, and higher corn prices.

This is the latest in a long series of seemingly renewable fuel decisions Don’t let anyone be happy. In this case, however, the goal might be to appease ethanol producers, who are largely opposed to the policy. Biden administration tightens emissions regulations, while taking steps to encourage electric vehicle use and reduce emissions by switching to electric vehicles. While this may continue to swing between benefits, everyone could be better served with an entirely new policy at this point—one that fully acknowledges that for electric vehicles, Electricity is fuel.

EPA is seeking comment on the proposal, which could be set for next summer, with a credit bracket in place for 2024. If you’d like to read it over the weekend, you can find all 692 pages of the proposal. recommend right hereor 520-page impact analysis here.

with contributions from Stephen Edelstein

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