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Best of NAMA 2023

By Ryan Hanrahan, University of Illinois' FarmDoc project

Reuters reported Friday that "President Joe Biden's administration is poised to announce an adjustment to its scientific modeling for ethanol that will show the corn-based fuel to be less effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than previously estimated, three sources briefed on the plans told Reuters."

"The adjustment, previously unreported, will make it more difficult for ethanol producers to take part in lucrative new U.S. tax credits for so-called sustainable aviation fuel, seen as crucial to the industry's growth, the sources said," according to Reuters. "It will still leave them a pathway to the subsidies if they can partner with corn growers that use sustainable farming practices."

"A White House spokesman told Reuters that no final decision has been made on the climate model, and that 'speculation about determinations are premature,'" Reuters reported.

The news that the Biden administration is adjusting its scientific modeling came after, in December, they "handed a win to the ethanol industry Friday in new guidelines outlining qualifications for a tax credit for alternative aviation fuels," the Hill's Rachel Frazin reported.

The qualifications, they said at that time, would "be calculated using a federal model known as the GREET model, which the ethanol industry has expressed support for over other models," Frazin reported. "The ethanol industry has raised concerns about other models, saying that under a European model, fewer fuels would qualify."

Reuters reported Friday, however, that the Biden administration's "adjustment is intended to more accurately account for the environmental damage caused when land is converted into farms to grow corn, while also rewarding climate smart farming techniques like no-till farming and covered crops, said the sources, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly," Reuters reported. "Politically, the plan would be a middle ground for the White House, which faces pressure from environmentalists who want the world to rely less on farms for fuel, and an ethanol industry looking to the skies for financial survival as electric vehicles threaten to kick them off roads."

The change could cause further consternation among farmers, who have previously accused the Biden administration of overlooking biofuels in a race to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, according to reporting earlier this month from Bloomberg's Ilena Peng and Kim Chipman.

"The National Corn Growers Association said the White House 'may be overlooking the benefits of biofuels as it rushes to embrace electric vehicles,' according to a letter viewed by Bloomberg News that will be sent to President Joe Biden on Wednesday," Peng and Chipman reported. "'If we are going to address climate change and meet our climate goals, we are going to have to take a multi-pronged approach that includes tapping into higher levels of biofuels, such as corn ethanol, which offers an immediate climate solution.'"

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