Visualizing the indirect effects of oil

Biofuels & Climate Change

It has been pointed out numerous times on this blog (herehere and here) that you can’t have a true comparison of fuels if you account for the direct effects of all fuels and the indirect effects of only one. But that is what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resource Board (ARB) have proposed. Both the EPA in their proposed RFS II rules and ARB in their Low-Carbon-Fuel-Standard have calculated the direct effects of all fuels and then only looked at indirect land effects and applied them only to biofuels.

Is it reasonable to claim that there are NO indirect effects from petroleum? One study, published in the academic journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, suggested that accounting for the military protection of pipelines alone would double the greenhouse gas emissions of Persian Gulf oil. But if you don’t want to read through the study, just watch this video from the Renewable Fuels Association. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case I think they’re right.

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One Response to Visualizing the indirect effects of oil

  1. Aureon Kwolek says:

    EPA Subject to Litigation for Falsely Regulating Biofuels

    New regulations in the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard, RFS-2, are based on a comparison between biofuel emissions vs petroleum fuel emissions. That is supposed to include how they’re produced, delivered, and consumed. But the EPA is way off on this comparison.

    Using outdated information, omissions, underestimating and overestimating, inconsistent standards, and a controversial land use theory that can’t be scientifically proven – the EPA has committed fraud against the biofuel industry.

    Here’s the EPA’s biggest omission: When you burn petroleum based fuel and when you burn biofuel, you don’t get the same carbon result. Burning petroleum causes “Newly-mined CO2” to accumulate in the atmosphere. In contrast, biofuel simply recycles CO2 that was already there. The EPA totally omits this from their end-use comparative analysis.

    Petroleum fuels should take a carbon penalty for adding “Newly Mined CO2” to the air, and biofuels should receive a carbon credit for displacing accumulating CO2 with “Recycled CO2”.

    The EPA twisted data in numerous different ways. They used outdated information for their baseline petroleum footprint. EPA went back to 2005 for their proposed 2010 rules. That was deceptive, because the older petroleum baseline did not include up to date proportions of energy intensive deep offshore drilling, oil shales, and especially Canadian Tar Sands. When this is factored-in, it downgrades the carbon footprint of petroleum.

    Another omission is the carbon debt of 35 million acres that Tar Sands have deforested – totally ignored by the EPA. Yet they blame corn ethanol for deforestation in foreign countries that never happened. This year’s corn crop is the same number of acres it was 60 years ago. It has Not been displacing any other crops. We are simply getting much higher yields per acre.

    The majority of deforested land in the Amazon is not used for years after the big timber is stripped. And when it is, it’s being used mostly for cattle grazing and subsistence farming, not biofuels. In “Deforestation Debunked”, Jackie Helling says an Amazon study conducted earlier this year, by the Soybean Work Group (GTS), “showed that of 630 samples of deforested areas since July 2006, only 12 had gone to soybeans and 200 to cattle. The remaining 418, or 70 percent, were unused – indicating that the main reason for cutting down trees was for timber and land grabbing.”

    Hypothetically, if indirect land use change was actually happening, expansion of a sugar crop in India could have caused it. Expanding rice or cassava in China could have caused it. A new palm oil plantation in Indonesia could have caused it. A new jatropha grove in Africa may have caused it. A new cattle ranch in Argentina may have caused it. An apple orchard in New Zealand could have caused it, and so on.

    Deforestation is Not automatic proof that biofuels are the cause. Yet a lawyer, a lobbyist, an environmental activist, a biofuels critic, the mastermind of indirect land use change theory, has been allowed to steer EPA computer modeling to blame biofuels. That’s junk science.

    The EPA underestimates food byproducts that come out of biofuel crops. For example, when an acre of corn is processed to make ethanol, you also get over 20 gallons of corn oil and over 50 bushels of high protein livestock feed, used to produce food. Two thirds of that acre of corn, and the energy inputs to grow it and harvest it, goes to ethanol. The other third goes to food production. For biodiesel fuel, extracted from soybeans, 20% of the acre goes to the oil, and 80% goes to livestock feed that produces food. Only 1/5 of a soy acre is used for fuel. Because the EPA gets these relationships wrong, it falsely pro-rates the energy inputs between fuel and food and thereby overestimates the emissions of the fuel component.

    The EPA fails to accurately measure the carbon footprint of foreign oil shipped thousands of miles to the U.S. – burning dirty bunker fuel and conventional diesel. And, in addition to that, 12 to 15% of the U.S. military budget is spent to protect our foreign oil supply (Rand Report). That entails keeping a military presence in the Middle East and burning huge quantities of jet fuel, dirty diesel, and more dirty bunker fuel to protect oil fields and pipelines and to escort oil tankers as needed. Long distance shipping needs to be factored into the carbon footprint of petroleum fuels made from foreign oil, and so does the fuel and the pollution involved in protecting it. Yet the EPA fails to do this, and it further distorts their false carbon score for petroleum.

    Embracing indirect land use change theory, before it was scientifically proven, is another display of corruption by the EPA. Fancy computer modeling and high tech satellite imagery are worthless, when the EPA uses false assumptions and inaccurate input data. The EPA also used an attorney-lobbyist, the author of the bogus land use theory, and his assistants, to peer review his own work. Other outspoken biofuels critics and political activists were also used. The EPA Did Not recommend the best candidates for peer review – Department of Agriculture experts, who had years of experience in land use change, were not asked to participate.

    Then the EPA issued this false claim: “We are pleased that this independent peer review has affirmed EPA’s approach to be fair, credible and grounded in science.” This was a fraudulent EPA statement, because their peer review process was Not fair, Not credible, and most of all, Not grounded in science. Numerous peer reviewers were biofuel critics and political activists with bias and conflicts of interest.

    Renewable Fuels Association President, Bob Dinneen responded: “EPA has asked the foxes to guard the hen house on this issue. By adding lawyers and advocates to a scientific review panel, EPA bureaucrats have made a mockery of the Administration’s commitment to sound science. These reviews absolutely cannot be viewed as objective or unbiased. Many of these reviewers have repeatedly and openly demonstrated unabashed and politically-motivated biases against biofuels in the past, which immediately casts a long shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of EPA’s peer review process. This is a perversion of what the peer review process is supposed to achieve.”

    Professor Wally Tyner of the Agricultural Economics Department, Purdue University said, the “sweeping conclusions” made by believers in indirect land use change theory are premature and unproven.

    Dr. Hao Tan and Professor John Mathews of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia agreed. After exhaustive analysis Mathews stated: “Indirect land use change effects are too diffuse and subject to too many arbitrary assumptions to be useful for rule-making.”

    111 scientists stated jointly in a recent letter to CARB, that indirect land use change theory is immature and can not be validated. This was signed by (1) Blake A. Simmons, Ph.D., Vice President, Deconstruction Division, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Manager, Biomass Science and Conversion Technology, Sandia National Laboratories; (2) Harvey W. Blanch, Ph.D., Chief Science and Technology Officer, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Member, National Academy of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley; and (3) Bruce E. Dale, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor, Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University.

    Replacing petroleum fuels with biofuels is an opportunity to recycle existing CO2, instead of bringing-up more and more new carbon from underground and spewing it into the air. This causes CO2 to accumulate in the atmosphere. Substituting biofuels for fossil fuels can be a key factor in mitigating climate change.

    That is, if we get rid of the oil interests embedded in the EPA, and clean-up their illegitimate rulemaking.

    The Obama Administration appears to have a two faced, forked tongue policy toward biofuels. To their face, farmers and biofuel producers are being promised smiley government support. But on their backside, the EPA is giving them the shaft – Hitting them with rules and regulations that are Not grounded in science and Not based on accurate data.

    The EPA’s comparative analysis carbon score for biofuel vs petroleum fuel is grossly inaccurate. This casts a shadow of uncertainty on EPA’s proposed rules. The numbers will need to be redone and done right.

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