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Agricultural News

Renewable Fuels Association Clarifies Studies in a Letter to Senate Committee

Mon, 05 Dec 2011 12:51:21 CST

Renewable Fuels Association Clarifies Studies in a Letter to Senate Committee Critics of biofuels miss few opportunities to mischaracterize scientific studies and comments in their quest to demonize domestic production of ethanol and other renewable fuels. In a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leadership on November 30, a group of usual anti-ethanol suspects grossly misrepresented the finding of two recent papers on American biofuels and American biofuel policy one from the National Academies of Science (NAS) and one from United Nations Committee on Food Security (CFS).   These groups, including corporate livestock, food manufacturing, fossil fuel production, and other industries, are seeking a hearing on domestic biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Clarifying the record, the Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to the same EPW Committee leaders that directly refutes the statements made in the November 30th letter and provides additional research confirming the benefits of domestic biofuel production.

"A recent letter to you from several anti-biofuel organizations grossly misrepresented and distorted the findings of recent studies by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and United Nations Committee on Food Security (CFS)," wrote RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. "We are writing to address the letter's obvious mischaracterizations of these two studies, particularly as they relate the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Judging by their erroneous description of the studies' key conclusions, it seems the authors of the November 30th letter likely did not even read the studies to which they refer."

Specifically, the RFA took exception to assertions made in the November 30th letter that the NAS study offered definitive conclusions about the environmental impacts of ethanol or the efficacy of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

"While the November 30th letter suggests the NAS report offers definitive conclusions about the environmental impacts of biofuels, the co-chairs of the panel distinctly emphasize in the study's preface that '-our clearest conclusion is that there is very high uncertainty in the impacts we were trying to estimate. The uncertainties include essentially all of the drivers of biofuel production and consumption and the complex interactions among those drivers: future crude oil prices, feedstock costs and availability, technological advances in conversion efficiencies, land-use change, government policy, and more.'," the RFA pointed out.   

The RFA also highlighted a finding of the NAS report conveniently omitted in the November 30th letter that "-using biofuels holds potential to provide net environmental benefits compared to using petroleum-based fuels-".

Some of the participants in the NAS research work have also questioned its applicability given its incompleteness and lack of definitive conclusions. "For example, it has been reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publishers of the journal Science) that Dr. Virginia Dale, an ecologist at the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, believes the NAS report "is not based on the most current information" and could be "misleading if the assumptions of the analysis are not considered."   Dr. Dale encouraged readers to "read the details with care," an admonition the authors of the November 30th letter clearly ignored," the RFA wrote.

Regarding the UN CFS study, the RFA noted that no mention of the RFS or specific biofuel policies were included in the study. "In fact, the brief CFS report, which simply summarizes recent discussions by the committee's expert panel on food security and nutrition, doesn't even mention the RFS a single time," the RFA wrote. "Moreover, in regard to biofuels, the report recommends only that the expert panel should consider a review process that considers both the positive and potentially undesirable impacts of biofuel policies around the world.

Much more of the report is focused on constructive recommendations to address food security concerns, including reducing food waste and post-harvest losses, "tightening up" speculation on the futures market to "avoid price manipulations," revisiting international trade rules, increasing investment in agriculture technology and research, and other actions that impact global food security."

The RFA believes that this letter and the claims made by these groups do not warrant a hearing by the Senate EPW committee. However, the RFA concluded that "should your Committee decide that hearings are indeed warranted, we ask that your witness lists be fairly balanced to include representatives from the biofuels industry, and academics such as Dr. Dale who understand the enormous promise of biofuels."

Click here to see a copy of the letter sent by RFA.



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