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TitleBiofuels and the Environment
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Table of Contents
                            Biofuels and the Environment
	1. Table of Contents
		List of Figures
		List of Tables
	Contributors
	Executive Summary
		Background
		Major Findings
		Likely Future Impacts
		Overall Conclusions
		Specific Conclusions
		Recommendations
	1 Introduction
		1.1 Organization of this Report
	2 Drivers of Environmental Impacts
		2.1 Biofuel Volumes
			2.1.1 U.S. Biofuel Production
			2.1.2 Biofuel Imports
			2.1.3 Biofuel Exports
		2.2 Feedstocks
			2.2.1 Acreage
			2.2.2 Total Production of Biofuel Feedstocks
			2.2.3 End Use of Biofuel Feedstocks
			2.2.4 Nutrients Applied
			2.2.5 Pesticides Applied
			2.2.6 Conservation Practices
		2.3 Technologies
			2.3.1 Biofuel Conversion Technologies
		2.4 U.S. Land Use Change
			2.4.1 Overview
			2.4.2 Observed Land Use Change to Date
				2.4.2.1 National trends in major land uses and cropland extensification
				2.4.2.2 Trends in intensification: Double cropping and changes in crop plantings and rotations
			2.4.3 Economic-Based Projections of U.S. Land Use Change Impacts
			2.4.4 Conclusions
		2.5 International Land Use Change
			2.5.1 Observed International Land Use Change
			2.5.2 Economic-Model Based Estimates of Biofuel-Induced Land Use Change
			2.5.3 Conclusions
	3 Environmental and Resource Conservation Impacts
		3.1 Air Quality
			3.1.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.1.2 Drivers of Impacts to Air Quality
			3.1.3 Impacts to Air Quality
				3.1.3.1 Impacts from Ethanol Emissions
				3.1.3.2 Impacts from Biodiesel Emissions
			3.1.4 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts
			3.1.5 Conclusions: Air Quality
			3.1.6 Research Needs: Air Quality
		3.2 Water Quality
			3.2.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.2.2 Drivers of Impacts to Water Quality
			3.2.3 Impacts to Water Quality
				3.2.3.1 Proximal effects: Pesticides, sediment, nutrient, and pathogen levels in waters
				3.2.3.2 Downstream Effects
			3.2.4 Potential for Future Changes in Water Quality Impacts
			3.2.5 Conclusions: Water Quality
			3.2.6 Research Needs: Water Quality
			3.2.7 Opportunities for Future Environmental Improvements
		3.3 Water Quantity
			3.3.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.3.2 Drivers of Impacts to Water Quantity
				3.3.2.1 Feedstock Production
				3.3.2.2  Biofuel Conversion
			3.3.3 Changes in Relationships between Drivers and Impacts
			3.3.4 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts to Water Quantity
			3.3.5 Conclusions: Water Quantity
			3.3.6 Research Needs: Water Quantity
			3.3.7 Opportunities for Future Environmental Improvements
		3.4 Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			3.4.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.4.2 Drivers of Impacts to Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			3.4.3 Impacts to Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
				3.4.3.1 Grassland Birds and Ducks
				3.4.3.2 Pollinators
				3.4.3.3 Aquatic Ecosystems
			3.4.4 Key Points from Recent Literature
			3.4.5 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts to Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			3.4.6 Conclusions: Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			3.4.7 Opportunities for Future Environmental Improvements: Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			3.4.8 Research Needs: Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
		3.5 Soil Quality
			3.5.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.5.2 Drivers of Impacts to Soil Quality
			3.5.3 Changes in Relationships Between Drivers and Impacts
			3.5.4 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts to Soil Quality
			3.5.5 Conclusions: Soil Quality
			3.5.6 Opportunities for Future Environmental Improvements: Soil Quality
			3.5.7 Research Needs: Soil Quality
		3.6 Invasive Species
			3.6.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.6.2 Drivers of Impacts to Invasive Species
			3.6.3 Potential Changes in Relationships Between Drivers and Impacts
			3.6.4 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts to Invasive Species
			3.6.5 Conclusions: Invasive Species
			3.6.6 Research Needs: Invasive Species
		3.7 International Impacts
			3.7.1 2011 Report Conclusions
			3.7.2 Drivers of International Impacts
				3.7.2.1 Trends in Annual U.S. Imports
				3.7.2.2 Trends in Annual U.S. Exports
			3.7.3 Changes in Drivers of International Impacts
			3.7.4 Potential for Future Changes in International Impacts
			3.7.5 Conclusions: International Impacts
			3.7.6 Research Needs: International Impacts
	4 Conclusions and Recommendations
		4.1 Overarching Conclusions
		4.2 Specific Conclusions
			4.2.1 Land Use Change
			4.2.2 Air Quality
			4.2.3 Water Quality
			4.2.4 Water Quantity
			4.2.5 Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity
			4.2.6 Soil Quality
			4.2.7 Invasive Species
			4.2.8 International Impacts
		4.3 Opportunities for Future Environmental Improvements
		4.4 Limitations
		4.5 Research Needs
		4.6 Recommendations
	5 References
	Appendix A: Abbreviations and Glossary
	Appendix B: Key Terms from Major Land Use Change Studies
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

EPA/600/R-18/195
June 2018

Biofuels and the Environment
Second Triennial Report to Congress

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development

Washington, DC

June 2 , 2018

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ii



1. Table of Contents
List of Figures ................................................................................................................................. iv
List of Tables .................................................................................................................................. vi
Contributors ................................................................................................................................... vii
Executive Summary ...................................................................................................................... viii
1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 1

1.1 Organization of this Report .................................................................................................. 6
2 Drivers of Environmental Impacts ............................................................................................ 6

2.1 Biofuel Volumes ................................................................................................................... 7
2.1.1 U.S. Biofuel Production .............................................................................................. 7
2.1.2 Biofuel Imports ........................................................................................................... 8
2.1.3 Biofuel Exports ........................................................................................................... 8

2.2 Feedstocks ............................................................................................................................ 9
2.2.1 Acreage ..................................................................................................................... 10
2.2.2 Total Production of Biofuel Feedstocks ................................................................... 11
2.2.3 End Use of Biofuel Feedstocks ................................................................................. 11
2.2.4 Nutrients Applied...................................................................................................... 14
2.2.5 Pesticides Applied .................................................................................................... 16
2.2.6 Conservation Practices.............................................................................................. 18

2.3 Technologies ...................................................................................................................... 19
2.3.1 Biofuel Conversion Technologies ............................................................................ 19

2.4 U.S. Land Use Change ....................................................................................................... 20
2.4.1 Overview .................................................................................................................. 20
2.4.2 Observed Land Use Change to Date ......................................................................... 24
2.4.3 Economic-Based Projections of U.S. Land Use Change Impacts ............................ 43
2.4.4 Conclusions .............................................................................................................. 43

2.5 International Land Use Change .......................................................................................... 45
2.5.1 Observed International Land Use Change ................................................................ 45
2.5.2 Economic-Model Based Estimates of Biofuel-Induced Land Use Change .............. 49
2.5.3 Conclusions .............................................................................................................. 52

3 Environmental and Resource Conservation Impacts ............................................................... 55
3.1 Air Quality .......................................................................................................................... 55

3.1.1 2011 Report Conclusions .......................................................................................... 55
3.1.2 Drivers of Impacts to Air Quality ............................................................................. 56
3.1.3 Impacts to Air Quality .............................................................................................. 58
3.1.4 Potential for Future Changes in Impacts................................................................... 62
3.1.5 Conclusions: Air Quality .......................................................................................... 64
3.1.6 Research Needs: Air Quality .................................................................................... 65

3.2 Water Quality ..................................................................................................................... 65
3.2.1 2011 Report Conclusions .......................................................................................... 66
3.2.2 Drivers of Impacts to Water Quality......................................................................... 67
3.2.3 Impacts to Water Quality .......................................................................................... 68
3.2.4 Potential for Future Changes in Water Quality Impacts ........................................... 73

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• Ethanol increased NOx emissions from light-duty vehicles certified to Federal Tier 2

Standards, likely occurring during times when the vehicle catalyst is not yet warmed up

or air/fuel ratio is not perfectly controlled. However, only limited data exist on the

impacts of biofuels on the tailpipe and evaporative emissions of light-duty Tier 3

vehicles and light-duty vehicles using advanced gasoline engine technologies to meet

GHG emissions standards.

3.1.6 Research Needs: Air Quality

• Comprehensive studies of the impacts of biofuels on the emissions from advanced light-

duty vehicle technologies (Tier 3), similar in scope to studies cited in this report for

light-duty Tier 2 vehicles, would improve the understanding of the potential for biofuel-

specific pollutants and associated health impacts as new technologies enter the vehicle

fleet. These studies should consider engine technologies being phased into use for

compliance with current and future light-duty GHG standards, with a focus on vehicles

compliant with the Federal Tier 3 or California LEV III criteria pollutant emissions

standards currently under implementation. Such technologies would include engine

downsizing with addition of turbocharging, gasoline direct injection, and non-traditional

thermodynamic cycles such as Miller or Atkinson.

• Additional research and analyses are needed to adequately understand the potential

health effects of exposure to biofuels and emissions from vehicles using biofuels under

real-world conditions, concentrations, and exposures including to susceptible human

populations. It would be appropriate to study health effects in populations exposed to

biodiesel and ethanol blends in “hotspots,” such as fuel production sites, and those

exposed to combustion products of biodiesel and ethanol blends, especially at high blend

levels. Such studies could include drivers of vehicles utilizing those fuels.

• Updated modeling is needed to incorporate improved emissions estimates as laboratory,

field, and other studies lead to a better understanding of biofuel-related emissions

changes and associated changes in the magnitude and composition of pollutants on air

quality, health, and attainment of ambient air quality standards.

3.2 Water Quality

Water quality is adversely affected by the production of biofuel feedstocks, primarily due to the

sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens directly or indirectly released during different biofuel

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production phases (e.g., upstream feedstock production, biofuel production, and transportation) (EPA

2003). These releases are dependent on the biofuel feedstock source, the feedstock production site’s

management practices, and direct or indirect land use changes associated with feedstock production.

Water quality impacts, in the context of this report, are characterized as either proximal (i.e.,

geographically close to the water body’s emission source) or as downstream water quality impacts (with

more distant emission sources). Chemical (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus) and sediment loadings are the

most significant proximal effects related to biofuel production. Hypoxia and harmful algal blooms are

the most significant downstream water quality impact related to biofuels, which can be found in coastal

and non-coastal waters.

3.2.1 2011 Report Conclusions

The 2011 Report concluded that water quality impacts from biofuels are primarily driven by

chemical inputs at the feedstock production stage (EPA 2011). The Report concluded that effluent

discharge and other already-regulated factors associated with processing biomass into biofuel would

likely have a lesser impact on water quality. At the time of the Report’s publication, water quality

impacts from EISA were characterized as negative, particularly due to corn and soybean production

intensification, which was associated with higher levels of erosion and agricultural chemical inputs (e.g.,

nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides). The 2011 Report linked increased fertilizer runoff to eutrophication and

coastal hypoxia, but it also argued that these impacts can be mitigated through conservation practices.

Mitigation efforts, particularly in the Mississippi River Basin, have included the establishment of

loading reduction goals and research on improved drainage strategies and the use of created and restored

wetlands and vegetated buffers. The 2011 Report also suggested that water quality benefits could be

achieved through perennial grass cultivation (e.g., switchgrass, giant miscanthus) on land designated for

row crops. While commercial-scale use of those feedstocks was only a potential at that time, perennial

grass cultivation was argued to have lower chemical inputs and higher utilization efficiencies when

compared to traditional feedstocks like corn and soybeans. Lower chemical inputs and less soil

disturbance may ultimately lead to lower sediment and nutrient losses to the surrounding environment.

The 2011 Report also concluded that water quality, including acreage and function of waters,

was affected by pollutants discharged from biofuel production processes. Different pollutants were

attributed to different biofuel production processes, where biological oxygen demand (BOD), brine,

ammonia-nitrogen, and phosphorus were characterized as primary pollutants of concern from ethanol

facilities, and BOD, total suspended solids, and glycerin were primary pollutants of concern from

biodiesel facility effluent. The 2011 Report noted that explicit impacts resulting from biofuel

production-

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Permanent meadows and pastures is the land used permanently (for a period of five years or more) for

herbaceous forage crops, either cultivated or naturally growing. A period of five years or more is used to

differentiate between permanent and temporary meadows.

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