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UCS Creates U.S. Roadmap for Cleaner Biofuels

The U.S. set a goal to obtain one billion gallons of home-grown fuel from corn stalks, wood chips and other non-edible waste by 2013 and 16 billion gallons by 2022, under the 2007 renewable fuel standard (RFS), but there is still not one cellulosic (non-food or non-edible parts of plants) ethanol plant in the U.S., reports SolveClimate. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the cellulosic sector is about four years behind RFS targets. There are, however, almost 200 corn ethanol refineries across the country.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claims the government can get advanced biofuels back on track for a cost of $4 billion, which would be used to fund a 30 percent investment tax credit and loan guarantees, reports SolveClimate

The UCS report, “The Billon Gallon Challenge” (PDF), recommends a plan to accelerate cellulosic biofuels to commercial scale through investment in tax credits and loan guarantees to support the first 1 billion gallons of annual cellulosic biofuels production capacity.

The second part of the USC plan calls for the replacement of existing biofuels tax credits, as they expire, with a Biofuels Performance Tax Credit that supports all biofuels based on their performance in replacing oil and reducing global warming emissions.

Some organizations oppose the recommendations. Ed Hubbard of the Renewable Fuels Association, told SolveClimate that the Billion Gallon Challenge would destroy a successful sector of the industry in an effort to promote newer technologies.

The report estimates that by commercializing cellulosic biofuels and meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates it would reduce global warming emissions by 45 million metric tons a year (compared with status quo projections) by 2022.

The report also calls for cleaning up all biofuels. The report finds that by upgrading the technology at all existing corn ethanol facilities it could reduce global warming emissions by more than 20 million metric tons a year.

USC says the Billion Gallon Challenge and the Biofuels Performance Tax Credit, together, could reduce global warming emissions almost 100 million metric tons a year by 2022.

In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposal for the 2011 percentage standards for the four fuels categories under the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). In 2011, 7.35 percent of all motor vehicle fuel sold in the U.S., nearly 14 billion gallons, must come from renewable sources, including cellulosic biofuels.

In the wake of the USC report, KL Energy and Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras announced an agreement to produce cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane bagasse, the waste created when sugar cane is processed into sugar, reports Businessweek.

Under the agreement, Petrobras will invest $11 million to adapt KL Energy’s test plant in Upton, Wyo., to use the waste and other feedstocks, according to the article. KL Energy expects to have the Upton plant ready to use sugar cane waste in several months.

Miguel Rossetto, head of Petrobras’ biofuels subsidiary, said in a statement the company hopes cellulosic ethanol technology will boost its ethanol production by 40 percent without increasing the number of sugar cane acres, according to Businessweek.

KL Energy will use sugar cane waste from Louisiana since it doesn’t grow in Wyoming. Currently, the plant in Wyoming makes small batches of cellulosic ethanol from fallen and dead trees, brush and forest debris from Black Hills National Forest.

Globally, oil company Shell and Cosan S.A., one of the world’s largest ethanol companies based in Brazil, signed binding agreements to form a $12 billion joint venture for the production and commercialization of ethanol and power from sugar cane.

The joint venture would become one of the largest ethanol producers in the world with 4,500 retail stations and annual production capacity of 2 billion liters (440 million gallons), according to the companies. The company would distribute a variety of industrial and transportation fuels through a combined distribution and retail network in Brazil.

In addition, the inclusion of Shell’s equity interests in Iogen Energy, a technology development company focused on cellulosic ethanol, and Codexis, a provider of biocatalysts, would enable the joint venture to deploy next generation biofuels technologies in the future. The company will also generate electricity from sugar cane bagasse in cogeneration plants at all mills. Ten cogeneration plants are already operational.

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5 thoughts on “UCS Creates U.S. Roadmap for Cleaner Biofuels

  1. RFS2 doesn’t have any teeth. The EPA put no time limits on when fuel would be blended. The blenders are supposed to blend a large amount of biobiesel this year, but haven’t yet. What big oil will do to get out of it will be to wait until december, and order all of it at once. Not all the producers in the country can produce that much in a month. Then the oil companies will say” We tried to get it but no one sold it to us.) Pretty stupid of the EPA not to put a monthly, quota on the RFS2 bill.Or could some of the oil companies money have influenced yet another government agency?

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