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‘’Biofuels Haven’t Cut Gasoline Prices Or Emissions’’

‘’Biofuels Haven’t Cut Gasoline Prices Or Emissions’’

Grass

Since its introduction more than a decade ago, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hasn’t cut gasoline prices outside the Midwest and has even led to a slight rise in pump prices in states far from ethanol production, while the standard has had a limited effect, if any, on greenhouse gas emissions.    

These are the key findings of a new report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) prepared at the request of Republican Senator for Oklahoma, James Lankford, who supports policies to lower the biofuel volumes to reflect market realities that gasoline demand turns out to be lower than what the legislators had predicted when enacting the RFS more than a decade ago.  

Under the RFS, oil refiners are required to blend growing amounts of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel. This policy has long pitted the agriculture lobby against the oil refining lobby. The Midwest farm belt benefits from the RFS policy because it increases demand for ethanol, but the oil refiners do not—they lose petroleum-based market share of fuels, and meeting the blending requirements costs them hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a recent blow to the ethanol industry in the farming vs. oil refining battle, a federal appeals court has denied a renewable fuel group’s attempt to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from issuing small refinery exemptions (SREs) to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Now it looks like the RFS and its effects on prices and emissions are also pitting one government agency against another.   

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Great Biofuel Swindle

The Great Biofuel Swindle

swindle

Over the past decade, “biofuel” has been a major buzz word in the world of clean energy and environmental science. As the topic of advanced biofuels continued to trend over the years, investments and studies ballooned accordingly. Now, however, with a bit of hindsight it has become clear that the vast majority of chatter and speculation about the “next big biofuel” set to change the energy landscape was just hot air.

Many claims made by energy startups, blogs, and think tanks were a bit short of credible, to put it lightly. A laundry list of companies over time claimed that they would be able to efficiently convert biomass like straw, wood chips, algae, and other organics into biofuel in an economically viable way. Some of these hopefuls even claimed to be able to do so for as little as a dollar per gallon.

Investors and taxpayers alike funneled money into ventures that had little to no chance of success. Investment went to technologies that had been abandoned decades before, due to economic impracticality. The most striking example can be found in the case of cellulosic ethanol. Converting straw into ethanol is a prohibitively expensive venture, but companies continued–and still continue–to try. What’s more, despite the fact that “commercial” cellulosic ethanol is only being produced at a very small fraction of the projected volumes, it’s currently being sold into the fuel supply, in large part thanks to heavy subsidization from the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Coming in second, only behind cellulosic ethanol, as the most overhyped biofuel is biomass sourced from algae. The concept is not nearly as far-fetched as producing fuel from straw. Some species of algae do produce oils that can be converted into fuel, and crude oil itself is essentially prehistoric algae and plankton.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do Biofuels Still Have A Place In The Global Energy Mix?

Do Biofuels Still Have A Place In The Global Energy Mix?

Less than a decade ago, biofuels were set to take the energy world by storm. They promised a low-carbon alternative to gasoline, while advances in algae technology were taking biofuels beyond the traditional soybeans and corn. In 2015, the contrast could not be starker.

The new frontier of biofuel technology has all but disappeared off the energy agenda, while opposition to traditional biofuels has only grown. The overarching question now is whether biofuels have a place in a sustainable energy future and what role should they play?

The debate over the negative impact of ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel is not a new one. But in an era in which environmental groups are increasingly savvy and the concerns over the economic and environmental implications of climate change are increasing, opponents have a strong case to make. Of course, as with many polemic discussions, the reality is far more nuanced than what we are often led to believe.

Related: How Much Water Does The Energy Sector Use?

In the US, the debate has centered on corn and its refined form, ethanol. According to one estimate, ethanol accounts for 40% of corn production in the United States. In 2014 this translated into over 14 billion gallons over the course of the year. This staggering figure has far reaching implications for corn prices and agricultural practices. The requirement that gasoline be blended with 10% ethanol, and the hefty subsidies the industry has received over the years have kept the sector afloat.

 

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New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.

Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.

Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions.

“I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. “There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

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