The use of biofuels as mandated by RFS.2 has a net positive impact on environmental quality. One of the key reasons for the adoption of this program was to provide an alternative to fossil fuels that could offer better energy efficiency and lower green house gas emissions. The environmental quality has been analyzed through four criteria much like in the report by Ackom, Mabee and Saddler (2010). These are: Greenhouse gas emissions, Energy use, Water use and Land Use Change.
Energy use: In their report Ackom, Mabee and Saddler (2010) state that the energy use is primarily defined by the electric energy that goes into the bioconversion process. This analysis considers efficiency in production and manufacturing process. According to this, biofuels (both 1st and 2nd generations) are reducing considerable amount of energy used in the extraction and manufacturing process as compared to non-renewable resources. Roughly evaluated values of ...view middle of the document...
S. 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act declared that cellulosic biofuels (2nd generation biofuels including ethanol derived from switchgrass) reduces about 60% of GHG emissions (both direct and indirect) when compared to fossil fuels. However, corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel lag behind somewhat with 27% and 44% reduction in GHG emission respectively. Concerns about the use of fertilizers producing Nitrous oxide can be reduced by investing in perennial plants, crop residue, and forest residue in addition to using more manure and biomass instead of chemical fertilizers.
Water use: Corn production uses high amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorous based fertilizers. Often these chemicals are runoff into water streams and dangerously pollute water. However, usage of soybean and perennial grasses requires much less fertilizers and water for irrigation. Perennial grass additionally helps decline soil erosion. Furthermore, locating biofuel plants close to water treatment facility may improve the water quality and reduce externalities.
Land use change: As the focus on promotion of biofuels increase, an analysis of opportunity cost needs to be done. The use of lands (food agricultural, forest, grasslands etc.) has been changing to accommodate the growing production of biofuel crops. This change has lead to increase in emissions, and loss of biodiversity. RFS.2 has taken very serious steps in order to make up for these emissions. RFS.2 has redefined biofuels into four categories mandating different standards for reducing GHG emissions. Renewable fuel, biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuel have to reduce the emissions by 20%, 50% and 60% respectively, under RFS.2
Analyzing through the various criteria for sustainability, biofuel usage under RFS.2 is efficient and very much needed for future generations. In terms of equity, RFS.2 recognizes the negative effects from the productive of biofuels and makes adjustment to make the process more equitable for everyone. The homepage for EPA provides in depth information about RFS.2, and has been open for questions from citizens about the program in order to reduce the problem of asymmetric information. Technology forcing has been adapted in terms of mandates for the producers to reduce the emissions keeping environmental quality in mind.