Friday RFS Roundup – 4/25

April 25, 2014

Not a great week for cellulosic biofuels. Not only did a DOE-backed study find that the most promising form of domestic cellulosic biofuel is worse for emissions than gasoline, but the EPA also revised the 2013 cellulosic mandate to acknowledge that the cellulosic biofuels “industry” produced less than 1 percent of the fuel required by the mandate— and that was actually an improvement from previous years.

Other news this week:

  • AP, Study: Fuels From Corn Waste Not Better Than Gas: Turns out, fuel from corn waste is worse than gasoline for emissions. A half-million dollar study paid for by the federal government shows biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the near-term compared with conventional gasoline. Just another government boondoggle to add to the list.

In Short: “The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.”

  • The Atlantic, The Brutal Bust in Next-Generation Biofuels in One Chart: The EPA finally faces facts: cellulosic ethanol won’t be powering our cars any time soon. Originally, the official 2013 target for cellulosic biofuel was 1.75 billion gallons, which was then cut to 6 million gallons last year, and now has been further slashed to reflect actual production: 810,185 gallons—.046 percent of the original mandate. The Atlantic’s Tom Woody uses a graphic visualization to show the profound discrepancies between the EPA’s overly optimistic projections and the realities of 2013’s actual production rate.

In Short: “Making advanced biofuels is a far more technologically challenging and complex process than deploying solar panels or wind turbines. And attracting investors to put up the hundreds of millions of dollars to build biofuel refineries has been no easy task.”

  • Forbes, It's Final—Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use: In a very comprehensive analysis of corn ethanol that looks at the biofuel’s effect on the environment, food supply and global food prices, author James Conca concludes that, well, “corn ethanol is of no use.” He notes that because of government-sanctioned mandates in more than 60 countries worldwide, the competition between food and fuel has become a moral issue. To put numbers into perspective, in 2000, more than 90% of America’s corn supply went towards feeding people and livestock; today, 40% of our corn supply goes towards ethanol production.

In Short: “In 2014, the U.S. will use almost 5 billion bushels of corn to produce over 13 billion gallons of ethanol fuel. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon gas tank with ethanol can feed one person for a year, so the amount of corn used to make that 13 billion gallons of ethanol will not feed the almost 500 million people it was feeding in 2000. This is the entire population of the Western Hemisphere outside of the United States.”