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Meet the GREET

Barrels of Biofuels

The Biden administration and a largely dysfunctional Congress have failed to agree on a new Farm Bill, budget plans, a sustainable financial path, or immigration reform/border security. Biofuels supporters and a bipartisan group of lawmakers want to make sure a critical tax component remains a federal priority in an upcoming March 1st update.

The effort is on behalf of the emerging sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry. Instead of using petroleum, producers make SAF using alternatives like municipal solid waste, cellulosic waste, used cooking oil, and algae.

There’s been a public push underway for months to get the Biden administration to finalize revisions to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies model. The model is referred to as GREET.

Supporters want an updated GREET to include sustainable aviation fuel. “GREET is the most accurate model and the only one that accounts for all of the climate-smart innovations happening on farms across America’s heartland,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor on the organization’s website.

Growth Energy is one of the country’s largest biofuels trade organizations.

Skor added, “By embracing GREET we can secure a win for both our environment and for the rural economy, as we begin to chart a course forward for American-made sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).”

RELATED: Here is a perspective from overseas on sustainable aviation fuel. It comes from Channel News Asia’s Hong Kong bureau chief correspondent with an illustrative explanation of the potential benefits of sustainable aviation fuel, along with the higher costs of production compared to petroleum. Watch that here. 

In a separate statement, Growth Energy asserted that if GREET isn’t updated accordingly, it could harm biofuels producers and work against climate goals.

“…successor GREET models should incorporate the best available science ‘based on accurate and credible data, particularly when accounting for inputs such as emissions from indirect land use change (iLUC) which can be relevant to biofuels’ LCA…’” the statement read.

Note: LCA is lifecycle analysis. LCA is “is a systematic analysis of environmental impact over the course of the entire life cycle of a product, material, process, or other measurable activity. LCA models the environmental implications of the many interacting systems that make up industrial production. When accurately performed, it can provide valuable data that decision-makers can use in support of sustainability initiatives,” according to the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  

Also Note: iLUC is the unintended release of additional carbon emissions due to expanded cropland production for biofuels.  Andrew R. Moss, SARE Fellow at the University of Maryland added this context, “The term ‘direct land use change’ might be used for a situation in which a field was being converted from corn-for-ethanol to switchgrass production, as in both cases the land would ultimately be used to grow crops for biofuel production. ‘Indirect land use’ or ‘Indirect land use change’, on the other hand, refers to land whose ultimate purpose is essentially changed from its previous use. An example would be a forest land that was cleared for the cultivation of biofuel crops.”

Another point that Growth Energy made was this: “…updated estimates of biofuels’ iLUC impacts are two to four times lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 assessment. Outdated LCAs can dramatically overestimate the carbon intensity of energy or fuel sources, risking the possibility of excluding them from qualification under the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act), which not only undermines the decarbonization goals of the IRA but also harms producers and businesses.”

RELATED: has background on the 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policies that impacted the Renewable Fuel Standard and the biofuels industry. Read that here. 

SAF is currently more expensive to produce than petroleum. Petroleum, though, has a significant head start in the marketplace. For comparison: In 2011 blended fuels with 50 percent biofuels were permitted on commercial flights.  In 1892 vehicles were using gasoline.

The price of production between the two can be significant. Sustainable aviation fuels can be twice as expensive to produce than petroleum for some waste-based sources and 6-10 times as costly when using carbon capture, according to Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders.

RELATED: Learn more about the process of producing sustainable aviation fuel, as well as an expansive list of sources that can be used to produce it. Read that here from Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders.  

SAF producers got some high-profile help for their future when a group of about four dozen members of Congress signed a letter to the Biden administration asking that SAF tax credits be part of the GREET model by the March 1st deadline.

“Biofuels drive economic growth, create good-paying manufacturing jobs, and strengthen economies across rural America,” read the letter from the federal lawmakers.

“We request that you adopt the updated GREET model as your methodology for determining this eligibility as soon as possible,” the letter continued. “This will accelerate efforts to decarbonize aviation — in line with the Administration’s stated goals — by accurately crediting emissions reductions from regenerative farming, climate-smart agriculture, and carbon capture and storage.”

“While we recognize your ongoing work to support the production of SAF, the actions above are crucial for ensuring the long-term stability and growth of this field. We stand ready to work with you to implement the updated GREET model as soon as possible, which will unleash the full potential of domestic SAF production and ensure American farmers can fuel the future.”

Some of the signatories are included below.

signatures 2

 RELATED: See all the members of Congress who signed a letter in support of sustainable aviation fuel tax credits as part of GREET and read the letter here. 


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