Biofuels Industry Pressures EPA To Ignore Rainforest Destruction

November 10, 2008  11:27 AM

CONTACT: Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Aaron Huertas, 202-331-5458

Biofuels Industry Pressures EPA To Ignore Rainforest Destruction

WASHINGTON – November 10 – The Environmental Protection Agency must accurately account for global warming emissions from biofuels when implementing the new renewable fuel standard, leading environmental and science groups said in a letter they sent today to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In last year’s energy bill, Congress explicitly required the EPA to accurately measure global warming emissions from renewable fuels based on their entire lifecycle, from cultivation to fuel production to vehicle exhaust. However, industry trade groups and others are pressuring EPA to omit or delay accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, such as tropical deforestation, tied to expanding biofuels production.

Such indirect land use change is the ripple effect that results from using land currently used for food for fuel production. This may indirectly lead to decimated forests or tilled prairies for new farms to make up for lost food crops. Such land clearing, especially in tropical forests, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases.

In their letter, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), underscore the importance of including and thoroughly documenting the impacts of indirect land use change in the draft rule.

“There is no doubt that greenhouse gas emissions caused by land use change are substantial, and that those associated with renewable fuel production can easily make the difference between reducing or increasing  greenhouse gas emissions relative to gasoline,” the letter states. “Encouraging investments in high carbon technology based on intentionally distorted accounting is a dangerous detour for the biofuels industry and would clearly undermine the intent of Congress in establishing minimum greenhouse gas standards for biofuels.”

(For the letter, go to:

The renewable fuel standard requires gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to sell more biofuels over time. By 2022, they are required to sell 36 billion gallons, or about 10 percent of all transportation fuel use in that year.

Biofuel producers must meet unique emissions reduction thresholds for each type of fuel to meet renewable fuel standard requirements. For instance, the standard requires that more than half of the biofuels must be advanced ethanol or cellulosic ethanol, which must reduce lifecycle global warming pollution by 50 and 60 percent, respectively. The EPA’s draft rule to implement the standard is likely to provide estimates of emissions from a range of biofuels, including corn ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

If the Bush administration pressures the EPA to ignore the science behind indirect land use change, it would be yet another example of ongoing political interference in science at the agency over the past several years, according to the UCS. (For more on past cases of interference, go to:

Conversely, if the EPA meets the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and uses the best science to account for lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, the groups said the agency will help set the country on a path to innovation in truly clean renewable fuels.


A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

Friends of the Earth ( is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. For more information, go to

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing. For more information, go to

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to



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