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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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Biodiesel Update: Now with More Soy

I’ve said before that the food versus fuel debate is about more than corn, and specifically that using a large share of America’s vegetable oil for fuel would be counterproductive, and would do more to expand unsustainable palm oil production than to sustainably cut oil use and reduce carbon emissions. Read More

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Through the Blend Wall or Not: Experts Weigh in on Ethanol Blends and the Future of Biofuels

How much ethanol can we use? Not as much as the corn ethanol lobby says, but considerably more than the oil industry wants you to think. The trench warfare between oil and corn ethanol interests over the future of biofuels policy distracts us from the more important questions. To understand the practical constraints facing the near term implementation of biofuel policy, it’s important to remember that there are 15 million flex fuel cars on America’s roads today capable of running on blends of 85 percent ethanol (E85) – it just isn’t broadly available. The implications reach beyond just corn ethanol. Read More

Categories: Biofuel  

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