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Mixed Reviews for RFS2

posted on February 4, 2010

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced this week he's scrapping the National Animal Identification System.

The Bush administration crafted and enacted Animal ID in the wake of the nation's first case of mad cow disease in 2003. It was applauded by consumer advocates for its role in tracing the origin of contaminated food. But many farmers and ranchers opposed the program they deemed, costly and -- at times -- intrusive.

A new state-by-state livestock tracing system backed with federal funding will likely replace the controversial 6-year program. According to USDA, only animals that cross state lines must be tracked under the new guidelines.

The Obama Administration also released new guidelines this week for renewable fuels. To help curtail greenhouse gas emissions, the 2007 Energy Bill mandated increased use of biofuels. The provision, commonly known as the Renewable Fuels Standard 2, or RFS 2, has never satisfied both ethanol proponents and its critics.

The controversy over RFS 2 continued this week when the Environmental Protection Agency released its final version of the rule.

Mixed Reviews for RFS2

Since it was first published for comment, one of the main sticking points for RFS2 has been the inclusion of the controversial "indirect land-use theory." The theory suggests when corn -- ethanol's predominant feedstock -- is diverted to biofuel production farmers in other countries will plant on sensitive land to compensate for the reduced food production.

The final EPA rule received mixed reviews this week. Environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council lauded the decision. Farm-state lawmakers and renewable fuels advocates found the decision troublesome. Senators from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota called the measure "irresponsible" for including the indirect land-use theory. And officials with ethanol promotion groups like the Renewable Fuels Association also expressed disappointment.

However, both Senators and RFA members were pleased the measure reversed a previous decision stating corn-based ethanol did not qualify as a greenhouse gas reducing fuel under RFS2 parameters. Previous versions of the rule stated ethanol was unable to meet a 20 percent reduction in GHGs when compared to gasoline. For example, the adopted version acknowledges that using natural gas in biofuel production helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to EPA, the decision also will be a boon for biodiesel producers. Revisions in RFS-2 allow the soy-based fuel to qualify as an acceptable GHG reducing biofuel.

In 2011, nearly 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels are required to be used by U.S. motorists. The amount is scheduled to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022.


Tags: agriculture biofuels ethanol Mad Cow news Tom Vilsack U.S. Secretary of Agriculture