If you can imagine a future powered by sustainable food and fuels; if you can imagine a future where globalism means that appropriate technologies are employed where they work best to the globe’s greatest advantage; if you can imagine a future of cooperation and collaboration to work out humankind’s tensions, then you see a future envisioned by Advanced Biofuels USA.
The future of the advanced biofuels industry is at a critical crossroads. In the US, the Renewable Fuel Standard has created a demand of 15 billion gallons/year of corn ethanol, an amount which covers about 10% of the US market and provides renewable octane by replacing carcinogenic MTBE. US and Brazilian sources have filled this demand. However, the US seems stuck on the 15 billion/year plateau providing no meaningful demand for advanced motor vehicle biofuels. Even the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has little impact since it has not been used by the government to push for more investment in advanced biofuels. Once corn ethanol filled the market for MTBE replacement, the oil industry fought giving up additional market share. International advanced biofuel markets are at similar crossroads with large markets such as the European Union and international aviation tied up in tangled discussions about carbon credits and sustainability which delay transition to renewables in the marketplace.
Advanced Biofuels is working to overcome these roadblocks through education and public advocacy. Here are the issues we are working on:
- Create increased demand for cellulosic ethanol by vehicle manufacturer use of existing technology flex-fuel engines that use E85; and promoting development of more efficient engines that benefit from high octane/high ethanol blends of E25-E30.
- Refocus government biofuel energy programs on getting innovative technologies from the lab to the market. Late stage research and early stage pilot plant investments would do this.
- Use government transportation fuel user fee increases (“gas tax”) to improve the biofuel delivery infrastructure. This is also important in the sustainable alternative jet fuel sector and shipping.
- Fully fund the transformation of the US, NATO, and allied security transportation sectors to advanced, sustainable fuels.
- Use motorsports to push the edge of what is possible with new fuel and engine technologies.
In these Modern Times, we face what seem, sometimes, to be insurmountable challenges.
Oil producing countries have a disproportionate influence on our daily lives-from national security decision-making to family budgeting. How can that power be peacefully mitigated?
Violence and hunger stalk many parts of the world. How can humanitarian needs be provided for by the more prosperous nations? How can developing countries invest thoughtfully in sustainable, clean, useful endeavors?
Over the world, the freedom of individual motorized mobility-privately owned passenger vehicles-is enjoyed by expanding layers of the world’s population; leading to wars over declining resources, disruption in economies, increasing pollution that spreads beyond political borders.
It’s a bit arrogant to even imagine such a thing, but the promise of advanced biofuels addresses this turbulence. Advanced biofuels are sustainable, renewable fuels. Most often applied to transportation uses, advanced biofuels could also meet many other liquid fuel needs.
Advanced biofuels can be made by breaking down biomass into more manageable parts such as sugars (5-Carbon and 6-Carbon sugars), polymers, oils and other precursors that, when put back together to form longer chain hydrocarbons, from which can be made biogasolines, bio jet fuels, biocrude and building blocks for development of other biochemicals. Early advanced biofuels technologies produce cellulosic ethanol from the cellulose in plants. Technologies being researched now strive to use hemicelluloses, pectin and lignin, as well as algae. Waste-to-fuel processes are nearing commercialization.
What might this mean for the world? If a country could use residues from food production (for example, the pulp, seeds and rind left over from production of citrus juices or the 85% of the sugar beet plant that is left after the 15% that is sugar is removed), forestry waste (leaves, branches or waste from paper mills), sorted municipal solid waste, or could use energy crops tailored to grow where food crops struggle, fail or are not needed, then couldn’t the world be a better place? The power of oil producers could be mitigated, farmers and food producers could produce products with added value, rural economies could be revitalized, dangerous pollutants could be reduced and the world’s energy resources could be expanded.
Certainly, no change comes without its own drawbacks. And introduction of new technologies brings its own challenges. However, who reading this web site wants to live without electricity without on-demand mobility, without planes, trains and automobiles? Without clean, running water and sanitary sewers?
With care, the promise of advanced biofuels can help us continue to enjoy a middle class life-and, perhaps, extend those comforts and conveniences at home and to other parts of the world.
Advanced Biofuels USA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization. Its purpose is to promote:
- Public understanding, acceptance, and use of advanced biofuels;
- Research, development and improvement of advanced biofuels technologies, production, marketing and delivery; and
- Sustainable development, cultivation and processing of advanced biofuels crops, and agricultural and forestry residues and wastes.
About a quarter century ago, the United Nations’ Bruntland Commission famously wrote, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”