Energy Conference Focuses on Profitable Energy Independence
(Huggins Consulting Group LLC/Ethanol Producer Magazine) Competitive landscape, innovative technologies and emerging energy policy were hot topics as a diverse group of nearly 150 thought leaders, industry representatives, researchers and suppliers convened in the heart of renewable energy production for the third annual Energy Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, September 11-13.
The diverse and powerful line up did not disappoint. The program sessions featured spirited and productive exchanges with different perspectives challenged but also with common ground identified.
Fuels Policy Filled with Questions
Fuel policy was addressed significantly during the two days of educational sessions. When looking at the political landscape, need for a long-term energy policy was a common thread among presenters.
“We don’t all agree on everything, but one thing we do agree on is the uncertainty,” said Donnell Rehagen, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. ”That is the biggest challenge we have to growth.”
“Clearly, based on the numbers, [the RFS] worked great for the first generation,” said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association. “We now produce over 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and ethanol producers exported over a billion gallons on top of what we sold in the U.S. last year. That’s a great accomplishment for America.
“Yet, we have less than 300 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol,” he continued. “There is something wrong systemically with the program. It doesn’t give the banks the confidence to invest.”
In addition to long-term structure, industry leaders in general also look to adopt a reasonable renewable fuel volume obligation (RVO). Production levels remain essentially flat, while the industry leaders say they have the capability to generate more product.
Competition at the micro level remains between ethanol and biodiesel, with a battle to see which renewable fuel takes the lead in market share and growth. Additionally, there also is the ongoing rivalry between petroleum and biofuels, with mandates for renewable fuels at the forefront of contention. Yet, an emerging idea is the need for the industry to take a more high-level, macro approach to competition.
According to Dr. Brian Conroy, with BConroy Consulting and the Texas A&M Energy Institute, the competition equation is shifting to liquid fuels versus electrification.
“The power sector is making more progress on carbon emissions than the transportation sector,” explains Conroy. “If the pressure for managing carbon continues to grow, I don’t think the next generation of biofuel development offers the solution and the electrification of transportation becomes much more viable.”
Alternatively, Conroy suggests, there is potential for the ‘virtual electrification’ of transportation, where policy shifts to a broad carbon credit encompassing the entire energy economy and transportation buys carbon credits from the electrical industry in order to meet its obligation in emissions reduction.
“In this scenario,” he adds, “the petroleum side and the biofuels side are in the exact same position, both rooting for liquid fuels.”
Siting the slow emergence of hybrid and electric cars, Eichberger (Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger) offered a few observations regarding transformation in the marketplace: consumers need to be educated; retailers need demand to drive investment; and the auto industry needs fuel availability to deliver vehicles—fuel resources must precede production. In addition, building on the theme of the conference, he concluded cross-industry collaboration is critical to new product success. READ MORE