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Comment 209 for Low Carbon Fuel Standard (lcfs09) - 45 Day.

First Name: Virginia
Last Name: Dale
Email Address:

Subject: Great uncertainty surrounds Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) estimates; therefore ILUC fact
April 22, 2009

California Air Resources Board
Headquarters Building
Sacramento, CA 95812

REF: Great uncertainty surrounds Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC)
estimates; therefore ILUC factors should be excluded until better
data and documentation are available and scientifically

Dear Board Members:

I am writing to recommend that CARB reconsider the proposal to
include indirect carbon emissions from land-use change (or Indirect
Land-Use Change – ILUC – factors) in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard
(LCFS) rule. A delay in adopting the ILUC component of the proposal
for GHG emission calculation is warranted because current ILUC
emission factors are theoretical estimates rather than
science-based calculations. 

The ILUC implications of the LCFS are largely based on a global
equilibrium model that is not capable of assessing impacts on
indirect land use. Instead, natural resource extraction activities
may very well be among the most significant factors contributing to
the accelerated loss of natural habitat in the remaining forest
zones of our planet. Based on my field work in the Brazilian
Amazon, Panama, Guatemala and personal research in south and
southeast Asia as well of review of numerous scientific studies, it
seems that land-use change in developing countries is a combination
of cultural, environmental, social, economic, political, and
technological factors. Global market conditions often have a quite
limited influence. In contrast to the model predictions, numerous
studies suggest that improved prices and expanded market options
for products, as expected under biofuel policies, reduce pressures
for deforestation and provide tools and incentives to promote more
sustainable land use. 

The ILUC estimates carry significant uncertainty because they are
based on:  (a) a model that was never validated or calibrated for
the purpose of estimating land-use change; (b) input data for land
use with degrees of uncertainty much larger in magnitude than the
changes modeled, casting considerable doubt on the validity of
results; (c) one set of modeling results when the same model
produced wide-ranging results for indirect land-use change in
response to minor adjustments in assumptions and inputs (and there
is ongoing debate surrounding the accuracy and validity of many of
those assumptions, factors and inputs) as documented in the papers
published on the GTAP website and for CARB in the past 24 months;
and (d) a hypothesis for indirect land-use change that does not
meet the “rules of reason” tests established in US courts for
indirect environmental impacts, exposing the LCFS rule to
potentially serious implementation obstacles that could be avoided
if the ILUC component were postponed until better data and
analytical tools are developed. 

Examination of the land use and economic models show that there is
not currently any accepted approach for calculating indirect
land-use change impacts from U.S. biofuel production and policy. 
GTAP has not been calibrated or validated for making land-use
change estimates. The GTAP modeling assumptions used to estimate
ILUC do not come close to reflecting the conditions and forces that
prevail in the areas where impacts are estimated to occur. Baseline
land-cover and land-use data and other underlying assumptions for
the modeling carry huge uncertainties, yet these uncertain inputs
determine the results. The sensitivity of results is illustrated in
part by the wide range of ILUC results reported among the GTAP
reports issued on this topic in 2008 and 2009.

Several US Court decisions have considered if and when indirect
environmental impacts need to be incorporated under proposed
government projects. The decisions can be assembled under “rules of
reason” that help determine when indirect impacts should be
incorporated. The basic question is, “Are the impacts (indirect
land use change effects, in this case) reasonably certain to occur
as a result of proposed action, or is the estimate (of ILUC) based
on speculation?”  There is a lack of consensus on this issue in the
scientific community. But, several considerations from past court
cases may help answer the “rule of reason” question: 

(a)	Are estimated ILUC impacts speculative within the context of
all the other events, circumstances and contingencies that exist to
enable the effect (e.g. deforestation)?
(b)	Is the impact (loss of natural habitat/deforestation)
inevitable, independent of the proposed action and the theorized
indirect impacts?  
(c)	Does the “precautionary principle” clearly favor one proposed
action over another? (e.g. What are the impacts on land-use change
and deforestation if less biofuels are accepted under LCFS due to
the assumed ILUC factors?)
(d)	Is the estimated impact increasingly tenuous as inquiry
extends outward from the core project area?
(e)	If there is a “reasonably foreseeable” indirect impact, does
it occur in a remote locale that is not under direct U.S. control?
(f)	What is the “legally relevant cause” of the impact? (Is the
ILUC impact isolated from the proposed action?)

Thus it cannot be concluded that the estimated indirect impacts
are caused by the proposed action. In the case of the California
LCFS, rather than include ILUC factors at this time as proposed, we
recommend that a more prudent approach would be to identify these
as possible indirect impacts and recommend mitigations to limit the
likelihood of negative effects. Such mitigations could include
adherence to sustainable production standards that are developed
and monitored by third parties.

I applaud your pioneering efforts to establish a LCFS and support
your initiatives to reduce emissions and improve welfare for
present and future citizens.  However the market-mediated land-use
impacts hypothesized by GTAP and similar economic models are not
merely inaccurate; they may indeed be estimating impacts that are
opposite to what could be expected in the real world, particularly
when biofuel production is backed by incentives for sustainable
production, environmental legislation and enforcement. Much more
work is needed to better understand the interactions among these
factors, going beyond theories, to calibrate and validate models
that reflect how behavior is impacted, and to better quantify the
degree and direction of impacts from biofuels. 


Virginia H. Dale, PhD
212 Whippoorwill Drive
Oak Ridge TN, 37830


Original File Name:

Date and Time Comment Was Submitted: 2009-04-22 11:37:55

If you have any questions or comments please contact Clerk of the Board at (916) 322-5594.

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