The Words that May Not Be Said: Biofuel, Ethanol, Biodiesel, Renewable Jetfuel
by Joanne Ivancic* (Advanced Biofuels USA) Absent from President Barak Obama’s State of the Union Message and from remarks made by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the DC Auto Show, the words “biofuel,” “ethanol,” “biodiesel,” “renewable jetfuel” or any variation of those. Except for a quick obtuse mention in a SOTU list of “the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel” (What did listeners think that meant?), the achievements of biofuels replacing 10% of our transportation fossil fuels, sustaining our rural economies through a tough recession and providing new international markets for animal feed and fuel were ignored.
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reflected in the rear window of a Ford F-150 pick-up, winner of the Green Car of the Year Award for Technology.
Secretary Moniz focused instead on the administration’s priority—transitioning to coal/natural gas/nuclear-powered electric personal transportation and hydrogen fuel cells, as if those are the only ways of achieving his stated goals of “increasing fuel efficiency and reducing petroleum consumption.” Apparently, as far as Secretary Moniz is concerned, all the investment DOE put into biofuels had no effect on either of those goals.
Apparently, the 10% substitution of renewable fuels for fossil fuels and the efficiency gains realized from smaller, more powerful engines enabled by high octane/high ethanol fuels are beneath his notice.
At an SAE-sponsored plenary session also at the DC Auto Show Policy Day, sticking with the practice of avoiding those dangerous words, Reuben Sarkar, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation for the U.S. Dept. of Energy who oversees EERE’s Sustainable Transportation sector (which includes the Vehicle, Fuel Cell, and Bioenergy Technologies offices) spoke of “optimization of fuels and engines,” designing fuels and engines together to achieve greater efficiencies.
SAE Plenary Panel as seated from the left end of the group: Joseph B. White, Reuters’ Transportation Editor; John Bozzella, President & CEO, Global Automakers; John DeCicco, Research Professor, Energy Institute at the University of Michigan; Anne Ferro, President & CEO, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators; Reuben Sarkar, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy; Ravi Shanker, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Research; Dan Smith, Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety, National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration
This sounded like a wonderful insight; however, when pushed to elaborate, pointing out that the carbon dioxide coming out of a combustion engine was the same regardless of the source, he stuck with the administration’s emphasis on non-renewables, emphasizing that if optimum performance could be gained from petroleum or natural gas molecules as well as renewable ones, that all were equal from an all-of-the-above-ish perspective.
It took another panel member, John DeCicco, Research Professor at the Energy Institute of the University of Michigan, to explain why biofuels might be the better choice if greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide emissions were also at issue. He introduced to the hundreds in the audience the concept of life cycle analysis and emphasized the need to compare the sources of the carbon in the fuel to understand why the carbon coming out of the tailpipe is not “the same” in some important aspects. Thank you, Professor DeCicco!
One of these days, maybe the President and those in his Administration in charge of facilitating, encouraging and funding R&D for “the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel” will say what they mean—developing and producing biofuels, ethanol, biodiesel; and renewable diesel, jetfuel and heating oil, for the economic health of this country and the environmental health of the planet.
All photos by J. Ivancic
*Joanne Ivancic, serves as Executive Director of Advanced Biofuels USA. She also served as a lobbyist promoting advanced biofuels research and production on Capitol Hill and with executive agencies. She has observed the development of advanced biofuels’ research and financing for more than fifteen years. From 2010 to 2013 she was voted one of the Top 100 People in Bioenergy by Biofuels Digest readers and editors.
Matt Blunt Delivers Message to NBB Attendees
by Chuck Zimmerman (DomesticFuel.com) It was good to see former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt on stage today at the National Biodiesel Conference. Matt accomplished great things for the industry during his time in office. He is now the President of the American Automotive Policy Council and lives in Virginia. …
“American ingenuity and perseverance are expanding energy supplies across the board– and biodiesel is no exception. Americans would much rather have American farmers working to fuel our transportation industry than foreign leaders who do not share our values or our commitment to free government.
As both a former governor and a Naval officer I can tell you energy security remains among biofuels’ most important benefits.
Sending billions of dollars every year to nations that do not share the interests of the United States is clearly not an ideal public policy
Growing our own fuel is growing agriculture in Missouri and across the country.” READ MORE includes audio of speech