Renewable Accounts: Solid Biofuels, Part One
by David Ripplinger (NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics) When I returned to the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University in 2010, I expected my research to focus on the economics of liquid biofuels. The corn-ethanol industry had expanded rapidly since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The plan was that cellulosic ethanol, although requiring more work, would be next.
The team that I joined was estimating the availability of crop residue in the region for conversion to ethanol. In other parts of the country, there was research on converting other biomass, including wood and dedicated energy crops, into liquid fuel. The biggest thing in cellulosics today is arguably keeping it in its solid form and shipping it to Europe.
In 2009, the European Commission established the Renewable Energy Directive that mandated 20 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020. This mandate is being achieved in large part by increasing the use of wood as a solid fuel. Most of this wood is being harvested in Europe.
However, since 2010, U.S. exports of wood pellets and chips to Europe have increased nearly 100-fold to more than 4 million metric tons a year.
The subject of my next article is that policy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a policy that could have almost as large of an impact on North Dakota and crop residue as the RFS did on Iowa and corn. READ MORE