It is widely understood and accepted that corn ethanol production is carbon neutral because the carbon produced during production is more than absorbed by the following year’s crop. But by January 1, corn ethanol plants in the United States will have its greenhouse-gases regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s obvious that carbon released from sources such as coal or natural gas should be recorded, but carbon released during fermentation and biomass burned for electricity should not be counted. The problem with the new EPA regulations is that they fail to recognize biogenic emissions, meaning it came from a biological source.
Another problem is that the new regulations don’t necessarily encourage ethanol plants to decrease their emissions; in fact experts believe the new regulations could discourage plants from improving emission standards. Without biomass electricity being considered carbon neutral, it will be difficult for facilities to improve.
The new EPA regulatory fees on greenhouse-gases could range from $5,000 – $10,000 plus annually for most plants.
“Those fees could be quite costly for some ethanol plants,” said Geoff Cooper of the Renewable Fuels Association.
The ethanol industry is appealing to the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider how it counts biofuel emissions.
The question is…if ethanol plants are getting charged for greenhouse gases, who will get credit for the sequestered carbon? It would make sense to credit the crop producers, but don’t hold your breath.