CARB forms expert work group on ILUC

By Holly Jessen
Posted February 24, 2010, at 1:08 p.m. CST

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has appointed 30 people to an expert workgroup that will meet for the first time Feb. 26. The workgroup will look at, among other things, indirect land use change (ILUC) as included in the state's low carbon fuel standard (LCFS).

Notably, there is one ethanol producer representative from Poet LLC and a representative from enzyme-maker Novozymes. Other members of the work group are from the U.S. EPA, the U.S. DOE, USDA, Union of Concerned Scientists, the European Union, one representative from Brazil, several from various universities and more. "The low carbon fuel standard is an important piece of energy policy, too important to rely on theories or unproven models," said Mark Stowers, Poet's senior vice president of science and technology, in a prepared statement. "As the lone representative for ethanol producers in the work group, I want to make sure that all carbon accounting is based on the wealth of facts and accumulated data regarding agriculture, energy and deforestation. I also want to ensure that all fuels, including oil and electricity, are held to the same accounting standards as biofuels so that the rule truly can lower carbon emissions."

The representative from Novozymes is Jesper Hedal Kloverpris, a life-cycle assessment specialist for Novozymes. According to the biographies provided by CARB, he completed a PhD in Denmark on ILUC from crop consumption and now works in Novozymes sustainability development department.

According to CARB's resolution, the work group was formed to assist in "refining and improving the land use and indirect effect analysis of transportation fuels." The work group will also evaluate key factors such as ag yield improvements, coproducts, land emission factors, food price elasticity and more--all of which "might impact" biofuel's land use values.

The group will meet about once a month through September. A draft report is expected in October. The group will "return to the board no later than Jan. 1, 2011, with regulatory amendments or recommendations, if appropriate, on approaches to address issues identified," the resolution said.

Another person on the expert work group is Bruce Babcock, a professor of economics and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. He's currently researching estimation of land-use changes caused by biofuels expansion. His goal, he said in an email, is to help improve CARB's "understanding of the degree to which their model assumptions do or do not reflect reality."

With the U.S. EPA reducing the impact of ILUC in their recently released renewable fuels standard (RFS2), some biofuels supporters are hopeful that could help convince CARB to do the same in California. However, Babcock doesn't believe it will have that direct effect. "I think that CARB needs to use their own model, and they need to find out if their model is adequate for the task at hand," he said.

In the Poet press release, Stowers said he was honored to be a part of a diverse group of experts from many backgrounds, from academic to government and more. "There will no doubt be some significant points for debate during our meetings," he said, "but I am confident in saying that we all pursue a common goal: to make our environment clean and safe."

A few months ago, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that California's LCFS violates the federal Constitution. About a month later, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and the American Truckers Association also filed a lawsuit.