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If the U.S. is Serious about the Paris Agreement, it Needs to Get Serious about Biofuels

November 4, 2016


Today the Paris Agreement on climate change enters into legal force, requiring 195 nations—including the U.S.—to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Countries have outlined myriad ways to reduce their emissions, and for many countries, biofuels are a key strategy for helping them meet their carbon goals. That makes sense because carbon emissions from transportation fuels now exceed those from power generation and any successful carbon program will need to address the ever-rising carbon emissions from oil extraction, refining and combustion. Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel do just that. Leading up to the Paris Agreement, countries submitted individual plans — called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) — on how they planned to meet the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. At least 37 countries included biofuels in their INDCs, but oddly the U.S. was not one of them. "It's frankly inexplicable that the U.S. has ignored the RFS in its INDC," said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. "The U.S. actually has one of the most successful and progressive fuels policies reducing carbon emissions from transportation fuels today—the Renewable Fuels Standard—that requires refiners to use an increasing percentage of renewable fuels through 2022. Even greater carbon benefits will be realized as more advanced cellulosic ethanol fuels are commercialized." According to a November 2015 analysis by Life Cycle Associates, on behalf of RFA, the RFS has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 354 million metric tons since 2007. "With ethanol a proven weapon in the U.S.' arsenal to help combat global climate change, our nation should continue to support biofuels and the RFS. The U.S. could take a good first step by finalizing a strong 2017 RVO that calls for a conventional biofuel target at its statutory requirement of 15 billion gallons," said Dinneen. "That will send a signal that the U.S. is serious about its Paris Agreement obligation and committed to the growth and evolution of the U.S. biofuels industry. "In a few days, COP22 will convene to begin discussing implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. The U.S. should take a leadership role there, and encourage other nations around the globe to aggressively pursue biofuels policies like the RFS that will provide near-term and significant carbon savings."