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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

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The EPA and Biofuels: Smart Goals, but an Outdated Roadmap

It may sound backwards, but the EPA’s proposal at the end of last week to reduce the 2014 biofuels mandates in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is just what we need to make sure we realize the promise of truly low carbon biofuels that cut oil use while minimizing competition with food. But while adjusting mandates in light of up-to-date data is smart, the EPA’s proposal goes too far, and could slow forward progress. Before finalizing the rule, the EPA should carefully balance near term challenges with the need to maintain progress toward long term oil saving and climate goals. Read More

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Talking Biofuels: A Conversation with University of Illinois Biofuel Experts

I’ve long admired and relied on the work of the ag economists at Farmdoc Daily, particularly Scott Irwin and Darrel Goode. They’ve done a lot of insightful analysis on the agricultural market impact of biofuel mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard — analysis that I rely on to make the case for a flexible, cautious approach to implementing the standard to ensure our clean fuel goals don’t come into conflict with food security and climate protection. I was lucky enough to spend a day recently with Scott, Darrel and other researchers at their home base of the University of Illinois, talking over the future of biofuels. Read More

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The Future of Biofuels Part 3: Biodiesel

Faithful readers will have seen my data-based analysis of the US mandates for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)  big choices on how to administer the program looking ahead. These choices highlight how the “food versus fuel” debate extends far beyond corn. The bottom line is that if the agency expands the RFS advanced mandate to make up for the slow commercialization of non-food “cellulosic” fuels, it will undermine the environmental and fuel security goals of the fuel standard, and contribute to food supply problems worldwide. Read More

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President’s Proposed Energy Security Trust Could Help, But Much More Needed to Address Oil Use

During President Obama’s State of the Union address, he spoke to the importance of cutting America’s oil use. As part of that, he proposed the creation of an Energy Security Trust that would use revenues from oil and gas production to invest in research for clean vehicle technology. The goal: to “shift our cars and trucks off oil for good” and “free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.”

So, would a proposed trust help or hurt efforts to cut oil use? Or is it too soon to tell? Read More

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Is the Drought a Perfect Storm for U.S. Beef?

In writing about climate change it’s hard to avoid the use of catch phrases and clichéd metaphors, as much we try to stop shooting silver bullets and keep all those pesky canaries out of our coal mines. At times, though, such oft-repeated words are used in paradoxical ways, jarring you into thinking about them a bit more deeply. This happened to me a few days ago when, in response to new Department of Agriculture data on the U.S. livestock industry, a beef producer referred to the impacts of the persistent drought as “a perfect storm.” Read More

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The Coming Fork in the Road for Biofuels

For those of us in the business of educating the public and influencing policy makers, feature stories in the New York Times can be game changers. So the story by the Times’ Elisabeth Rosenthal published earlier this month on the cost of biofuels in Guatemala was not only great journalism on an important human rights issue, it also (hopefully) showed our government decision-makers the human cost of biofuels policy at a time when they have a real opportunity to do something about it. Read More

Categories: Biofuel, Vehicles  

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The Food Versus Fuel Fight Is About Much More than Corn

Only a few years ago everyone was bullish on biofuels. It was that rarest of things: something that Al Gore and George Bush agreed on. Times have changed — and changed quickly. Read More

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Looking for the Signal in the Noise: Accounting for Global Warming Emissions from Biofuels

I consider myself a wonk, although I am comfortable with the title nerd as well. And it is a good time to be a wonk: Nate Silver’s pinpoint polling analysis stole the show on November 6, and the Washington Post’s Wonkblog regularly blows me away with its ability to make compelling reading out of a deep dive into specialized technical content. Read More

Categories: Biofuel, Global Warming  

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