|House Science Committee Hearing on the RFS, November 3, 2015
(photo credit: Michael A. Waring)
Following the recent hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) held by the House Science Committee, the subcommittee chairs asked me to respond to some questions for the record, following up on my testimony at the hearing. Here are the questions and an abbreviated version of the answers, summarizing my full written response.
In his testimony, Mr. Coleman referenced cellulosic ethanol that is "129 times better than gasoline on carbon emissions." Based on your research, is this a reasonable claim?
No, that is not a reasonable claim. Such assertions are based on paper studies of hypothetical ethanol production methods. There is indeed a literature on the subject that applies lifecycle analysis (LCA) to proposed cellulosic ethanol production methods and projects that the resulting systems would not only fully offset tailpipe CO2 emissions but also offset other CO2 emissions such as those from fossil-based electricity generation.
However, as pointed out in my testimony (and in papers explained elsewhere on this blog), the LCA methods used to justify such claims are scientifically incorrect. Moreover, the cellulosic processing methods involved remain speculative as far as any meaningful commercial-scale operation is concerned. In short, claims of biofuels that achieve a more than 100% reduction in carbon emissions are rooted in flawed analysis of fantasy fuels.