Last Friday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held a workshop on the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) re-adoption process. Updates to CARB’s indirect land-use change (ILUC) modeling and carbon intensity lifecycle analysis reinforce a key fact – sugarcane ethanol is the most environmentally friendly biofuel supplying today’s market.
CARB’s revision of indirect land-use change (ILUC) modeling resulted in reduced penalties for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and the lowest overall number in the LCFS, confirming it as the lowest-carbon biofuel available at commercial scale today.
This positive result is due to the sugarcane industry’s innovative sustainability efforts including reducing deforestation, promoting a double-crop system in production, and expanding mechanized harvesting instead of pre-harvesting burning techniques.
However, sugarcane ethanol’s environmental benefits in the LCFS would be even more significant if CARB included the emissions benefits of electricity cogeneration in sugarcane mills using leftover plant material, which displaces fossil fuel power generation.
UNICA was disappointed CARB has chosen to apply a U.S.-style average electricity mix to Brazil rather than crediting sugarcane biofuel producers for this marginal displacement of fossil energy. The average electricity mix approach may make sense for the U.S., but it does not realistically calculate the low-carbon benefits of bioenergy in sugarcane production, and we urge CARB to reconsider this decision.
LCFS re-adoption will have a major impact on America’s single largest transportation fuels market, but will also reverberate in states now launching their own LCFS policies. California has always led America in clean fuels policy, and CARB’s approach will once again stand as a national model for emulation – let’s ensure policymakers get biofuels policy right.
Leticia Phillips is UNICA’s Representative for North America. Ms. Phillips is an expert on Brazil-US relations and leads the Brazilian sugarcane industry’s advocacy efforts before the main stakeholders in the region, including the US Congress, Federal agencies, State legislators and business and civil society.