WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When rating fuels on the basis of their carbon content, biofuels should not be singled out and artificially degraded for so-called "indirect effects," according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In a letter to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, AFBF President Bob Stallman called for a "level playing field" in the development of that state's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The LCFS requires oil companies to reduce the carbon sold in fuels in the state by 10 percent by 2020. Under the proposal, all fuels are assigned a "carbon score" to reward the least carbon-intensive fuels. But only biofuels are being singled out for so-called "indirect effects" which raise the carbon score. As a result, fossil fuels would receive a better carbon score and a competitive advantage over renewable biofuels.

The proposed standard was originally intended to allow all eligible fuels to compete without bias. Biofuels play an important role in lessening the nation's dependence on foreign oil. But the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is proposing to enforce a biased carbon penalty against biofuels, thereby increasing the carbon score of these fuels by 40 percent or more.

The penalty against biofuels produced from U.S. crops is based on the faulty concept of "indirect land use change," which holds that for every acre of land used to produce corn for ethanol, another acre of land must be put into production to replace it. AFBF contends that model is problematic because the science of predicting indirect, economically derived carbon effects is both new and uncertain. The model also does not offer a reasonable justification for enforcing economically derived carbon effects against only one type of fuel.

Opposition to the CARB proposal has been strong and wide. Several stakeholder groups, including 111 scientists who submitted a letter to the governor's office, are recommending that CARB adopt an LCFS regulation based only on emissions directly attributable to the production and use of the particular fuel.

Noting that the proposed standard penalizes only biofuels for indirect effects, Stallman agreed with the 111 scientists who said, "Enforcing different compliance metrics against different fuels is the equivalent of picking winners and losers, which is in direct conflict with the ambition of the LCFS."

Stallman noted that the agricultural community is eager to play a central role in the increased use of biofuels, but warned, "If adopted as currently proposed, the LCFS will uniformly dissuade the production and use of all forms of biofuels that utilize land and undercut what is a tremendous opportunity to spur economic growth in agricultural communities and reduce carbon emissions with American farming."