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Policy Matters: Why Clean Fuels Forecasts Come Up Short

Cellulosic biofuel facilities are opening this year to much fanfare and a renewed promise that we can look forward to a quickly increasing supply of clean, non-food biofuels. At the same time, forecasts about the future of cellulosic biofuel have recently gotten more pessimistic, with the Energy Information Administration forecasting a plateau once these first plants open. What to believe? I use a simple model to show how progressive, consistent clean fuels policies will lead to lower costs over time. Read More

Categories: Biofuel  

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Production Begins At Second Cellulosic Biofuel Facility

You don’t often hear Kansas and Spain mentioned in the same sentence. Yet today Spanish company Abengoa is bringing another big cellulosic biofuel facility online in Hugoton, a small community in the Southwest corner of the state. This is the second big plant starting up this year, showing that after some predictable yet highly scrutinized delays, the cellulosic fuel industry is truly beginning to establish itself and making critical contributions to oil savings and climate goals. Read More

Categories: Biofuel  

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5 Things I Learned in Iowa about Biofuels

In July my colleagues and I, together with the Great Plains Institute, organized a Cellulosic Summit in Iowa. We brought together experts in clean transportation (many from California) with experts in sustainable agriculture (many from Iowa) to see for themselves the latest developments in cellulosic biofuel commercialization.  Read More

Categories: Biofuel, Vehicles  

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Bio-what? Organic Waste Can Provide Clean Energy

Before I became president of UCS, I served as Massachusetts’ environmental commissioner, and I pushed hard to turn an environmental problem (food waste) into a clean energy solution (biogas). It is great to see that the federal government has signed on to this idea.

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The Opportunity for Agricultural Residues and Manure to Fuel a Sustainable Future

Not all ethanol is created equal. The benefits, or consequences, of this ubiquitous ‘home-grown’ fuel that is blended in nearly every gallon of gasoline sold across the country vary depending on how it is produced and what it is produced from. As my colleague and uber biofuels-wonk Dr. Jeremy Martin has explained, ethanol produced from food, like corn or soybean, does little to reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation fuel and, in some cases, can actually be responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to gasoline. Read More

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What Do Ice Cream and Electric Vehicles Have in Common?

It’s a big day on the road to Half the Oil, and a celebratory ice cream cone is in order. Why? Two reasons. First, it’s summer in DC, and it’s hot and muggy. Second, in announcing late last week that they were allowing several new biofuel production methods, known as “pathways,” to qualify under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included electric vehicles charged on biogas made from dairy waste (yes, cow manure) as well as other sources of waste based fuel. It’s further proof our biofuels policy is about more than just corn ethanol. Read More

Categories: Biofuel, Vehicles  

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New Study on Corn Waste Biofuel’s Emissions: Worthy Topic, Flawed Conclusion

This blog appeared as a guest blog on the National Geographic Great Energy Challenge

A recent study in Nature Climate Change is attracting a lot of attention because of its headline grabbing claim that cellulosic ethanol made from crop residues produces higher carbon emissions than gasoline. (See related blog post: “Corn Waste for Biofuel Could Boost Emissions, Study Says.”) Read More

Categories: Biofuel, Vehicles  

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Cows Are the Real Hogs: The IPCC and the Demand Side of Agriculture

One small but important breakthrough in the new IPCC report on climate mitigation, released Sunday in Berlin, is that the chapter on agriculture, forest, and other land use (AFOLU) looks at the demand side, not just supply. In other words, it not only asks how we can create less global warming pollution in producing food and wood products, but also what kinds of food and wood products we ought to be producing and consuming if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. Read More

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What Are We Doing with our Planet’s Land? A Report from Berlin

I’m in Berlin at the Global Land Project conference, a biennial gathering of about 1000 scientists who study how we Earthlings use our world. I gave a talk on beef compared to other meats in the informal “Pecha Kucha” format, which requires you to use only 20 slides, each displayed for only 20 seconds. It was fun, but the big excitement has been hearing new ideas presented by researchers from all over the world.
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A Tipping Point for Palm Oil, Deforestation, and Peat?

History is happening all the time, but usually without us realizing it. Only rarely do we experience a change so dramatic that we know that what’s happening today will be remembered fifty or a hundred years in the future. The kind of thing that you’ll tell your grandchildren about. This is especially the case for so-called “tipping points,” celebrated in both scientific and popular writing. Usually, you only realize that something was a tipping point after you’re well past it. But sometimes…

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