EPA Could Nix Palm Oil Off the List of "Renewable Fuels"
The United States is in the middle of yet another energy debate -- whether or not to allow more diesel to be produced from palm oil in U.S. refineries.
The Renewable Fuels Standard calls for a certain amount of renewable fuel to mixed in gasoline. The qualification for a "renewable fuel" is that it must burn 20% cleaner than traditional gasoline.
Initial analysis from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that palm oil doesn't meet this requirement. When the entire life cycle of palm oil fuel considered, including indirect emissions from deforestation, the EPA found it only burns 11-17% cleaner than gasoline.
The debate around indirect land use has been fierce. Palm oil lobbyist groups claim the EPA's conclusions are based off "faulty data and erroneous assumptions." And, a former Clinton economist for the Clinton administration says it's highly speculative to calculate how biofuel production will affect deforestation.
A major factor in the misjudgement comes from the Agency's estimation that only 9-13% of palm oil will be produced from peatlands. Meanwhile a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that more than half of palm oil is currently produced from peatlands (soils in peatlands house a significant amount of methane--methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide).
The EPA is gathering comments on its analysis until April 27th. It's decision will be a big one, as palm oil biofuel is growing in production -- as it produces more per yield, and does so at a cheaper rate, than other vegetable oils --and the U.S. could be a major buyer.
Read the full story at the Washington Post: The EPA's most important decision this year could be over...vegetable oil?
Image credit: Adam Jones via Flickr
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