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New report advocates clean fuels policy for US Midwest, promoting biofuels

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The Midwestern Clean Fuels Initiative, supported by the Great Plains Institute, has released a new report detailing how a successful clean fuels policy should be developed for the US Midwest.

The whitepaper, titled ‘A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest’, recommends a technology-neutral, portfolio approach that encourages a fair and competitive marketplace that benefits producers, consumers, agriculture, utilities, jobs and public health.

Facilitated by the Great Plains Institute, the Midwestern Clean Fuels Initiative brings together fuel producers and marketers, non-profit and research organisations, scientists and engineers, and agriculture and industry stakeholders. The report, which demonstrates broad support for a policy, aims to inform further discussion of new and existing clean fuels policies and how they could be tailored to benefit the US Midwest.

“A comprehensive clean fuels policy is critical to solving the region’s most significant emissions challenge,” said Brendan Jordan, vice-president of transportation and fuels at the Great Plains Institute. “This portfolio approach brings together a number of solutions from cleaner electricity to charge electric vehicles to bolstering the region’s rich agricultural resources while simultaneously lowering the carbon intensity of biofuels. Clean fuels represent a huge opportunity for the region to create an environmentally and economically sustainable future.”

A clean fuels policy evaluates all fuels based on lifecycle carbon accounting and assigns each fuel production method a carbon intensity (CI) score, which is a complete well-to-wheels carbon equivalent emissions.

A CI score for biofuels, for example, includes emissions from farming, biofuel production, transport and combustion in a vehicle.

“Clean transportation means using less oil and transitioning to cleaner fuels, including low carbon biofuels and electricity,” noted Jeremy Martin, director of fuels policy and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a member of the Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy Initiative. “Clean fuels policies promote the use of low-carbon biofuels and electricity and support increased deployment of electric vehicles from passenger cars to transit buses.

“A Midwestern approach to clean fuels policy should also reward biofuel producers that reduce emissions, support farmers who adopt more sustainable practices, and encourage operators of electric vehicles to charge them with renewable power.”

Recommendations for a fair policy

The report makes several recommendations to ensure and successful and fair clean fuels policy. The policy must: be market-based and remain fuel and technology-neutral; rely on a portfolio of clean fuels; have consistent lifecycle assessments for all fuel types; consider regional factors in the US Midwest.

Other recommendations to consider are that any policy should: build on existing state policies; reinforce and complement existing efforts by the agricultural sector to adopt practices that improve soil health and water quality, as well as capture carbon; and recognise state autonomy in policymaking, but seek to create a uniform regional approach where possible.

Commenting on the release of the report, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings, who is a co-funder and co-founder of the clean fuels policy whitepaper process, said: “ACE is proud to play a role in accomplishing something many people said couldn’t be done. With the leadership of the Great Plains Institute, we have reassembled a diverse coalition of agriculture, environmental, scientific, and biofuel organizations that support increasing the use of ethanol as one way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“This reunification is based on a shared vision for the Midwest to be a bigger part of the solution to climate change, but in a way which also spurs economic growth. We strongly encourage Midwest governors and legislators to read the white paper and consider new clean fuel policies which will expand economic activity and cut GHG emissions.”