The recently released Climate-Smart Agriculture Progress Report from the USDA is a good first step in compiling initial conversations and recommendations for a unified strategy to build climate resilience and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The report explores various “themes” that emerged from comments and stakeholder process, including the role of voluntary environmental markets and concerns about at-the-farm level policies or programs.
Moreover, it is an excellent first step in a very complex process of building on the strengths of the agricultural sector and its role in fighting climate change. That role, through voluntary incentives, could involve direct on the farm actions to increase energy efficiency as well as to green the biomass supply used to produce biofuels. Many herculean and creative efforts will indeed be needed to timely and effectively tackle climate change.
E15 and higher ethanol blends are tools which are already reducing GHG emissions in the Minnesota transportation sector. Even more can be done with those tools to further reduce GHG emissions. One action, for instance, is to give biofuels greater access to the marketplace via additional storage and dispensing infrastructure. The result will be reduced carbon intensity of liquid transportation fuel.
While ethanol producers strive to use the latest technology and processes to reduce the carbon intensity of their renewable fuel, even more can be done to reduce the carbon intensity of the biomass supply chain.
While the report covers many issues, as part of the ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, we welcome the opportunity to explore how voluntary incentives could be used to more rapidly “green” the biomass supply chain. For biofuel producers in particular, the foundational issues are whether the biomass supply chain is actually made “greener” (lower carbon intensity) and the carbon accounting method is robust and accurate.
The report and what it reflects is certainly a step in the right direction but it is missing clear goals and timelines for action and results. Now is the time to build upon the strengths in the agriculture sector so as to foster the rapid adoption of GHG reduction practices and buy-in to voluntary environmental markets. The data, information, science and evidence is crystal clear on climate change: time is of the essence when it comes to drastically cutting GHG emissions.