Biofuels Moves from Dark Ages to Renaissance; Voices from World Biofuels Markets
by Nadim Chaudhry (Green Power Conferences/Biofuels Digest) Representatives from up and down the value chain of the biofuels industry took stage this week at World Biofuels Markets to discuss issues regarding the state of the industry and several key issues impacting its growth.
Having been involved in this space since 2003, I’ve seen a series of phases. The first – what I’ll call Euphoria – was in the 2006-2008 timeframe, where a series of events, from high oil prices to feedstock surplus (and consequent low cost) and mostly supportive government policy around the world. Biofuels were “in.”
This quickly gave way to the Dark Ages, the period from 2008 until about midway through 2011. Crashing oil prices, soaring feedstock costs, controversial claims about food vs. fuel, Indirect Land Use, “Splash & Dash”, and expired tax credits all combined to hammer the industry.
I believe we have entered a new phase. It’s too early to tell if this is a Renaissance, but there are a number of indicators that we’ve turned a corner. Volumes are back up in the first generation sectors – with global production of ethanol and biodiesel at an all time high for 2012.
We are in the midst of a promising set of second generation feedstocks, from waste materials like garbage, flue gas and forest materials to non-food crops like camelina and jatropa, to non terrestrial crops like micro and macro algae (seaweed). In addition to these feedstocks, processing technology has evolved to create drop-in replacement fuels.
…According to Candace Wheeler, a Technical Fellow at General Motors, pairing already efficient vehicles with biofuels magnifies the environmental impact. The question for her is, moving forward, how to make the right choice for biofuels. Cost and collaboration is the answer.
“We need to see many of these newer advanced fuel technologies walk down their cost curves,” said Wheeler. “The solution will require automakers, oil companies, and regulators all working together.”READ MORE