The Republic of Biofuels and the Age of Plenty
by Mackinnon Lawrence (Biofuels Digest/Pike Research) Since its inception, the bio-based economy — a multifaceted effort aimed at supplanting fossil fuels with biomass resources as the engine of the global economy — has been squarely focused on the issue of Peak Oil. Bio-based advocates have seized upon shortages of easy crude, associated high energy prices, and concerns around energy security as rhetorical sound bites to accelerate the production of biofuels and other bio-based products.
The significant economic potential of the bio-based economy also fuels scale-up aspirations. In its Future of Industrial Biorefineries report published in 2010, the World Economic Forum estimated that the biorefining sector can inject more than $230 billion into the global economy by 2020.
But the notion of “homegrown energy” — a direct response to Peak Oil and the primary driver for Brazil’s long-standing ProAlcool policy as well as the U.S. biofuels boom over the last decade — has always been at the heart of bio-based ambitions. With oil prices registering $70 swings and above-ground geopolitical conflicts trimming supplies to key markets like Europe, the last several years have largely justified such efforts.
The New Age of Plenty
Seemingly overnight, according to a number of analysts, the forces that ushered in today’s biofuels production may have shifted with uncertain implications for future biofuels expansion. Daniel Yergin is among a growing group of Peak Optimists that see a future awash in new oil production. His firm, CERA, predicts a 20% increase in total global liquids production by 2030. Backing up these forecasts, a much talked about policy brief published last month by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and authored by former Eni executive Leonardo Maugeri suggests that oil production will surge, especially in countries like the United States and Brazil over the coming decade. The study is based on a field-by-field analysis of the world’s major oil formations and exploration projects.
…Looking at data compiled for Pike Research’s Biofuels Markets and Technologies report published in 4Q 2011, if global biofuels production by volume were aggregated among producing countries and treated as a single nation (a.k.a. the Republic of Biofuels), it would rank 18th among oil-producing nations in 2011. That places the Republic of Biofuels one notch ahead of Libya, which given the impact reduced oil exports due to civil war had on global crude prices, suggests that global biofuels production occupies an important place in the international energy landscape. READ MORE