January 2012

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2012 > January 2012


This page includes information on News and Events in January 2012.

  • (News and events are archived here after the end of the month.)

Events

News

  • EPA Rejects Palm-Oil Based Biodiesel for Renewable Fuels Program, 27 January 2012 by Business Week: "The Environmental Protection Agency said that biodiesel made from palm oil doesn’t meet the requirements to be added to its renewable fuels program because its greenhouse-gas emissions are too high."
    • "In a regulatory filing today, the EPA said that palm-oil biodiesel, which is primarily produced in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, provides reductions of as much as 17 percent in greenhouse-gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel, falling short of a 20 percent reduction necessary to qualify under the law."
    • "By failing to meet that threshold, oil companies can’t use palm fuels to meet national renewable fuel standards. Other fuels they can use are made from soy beans, animal fat, recycled cooking grease or similar materials...."
    • "Environmental groups, which are locked in a fight with the EPA over its approval of corn-based ethanol under the same program, praised the decision as an important marker by the agency. Palm-oil production has led to the deforestation of 6.5 million hectares (16.1 million acres) in Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Friends of the Earth."[2]
  • Biofuel Research Suffers From Gaps, 20 January 2012 by Chemical & Engineering News: "After a review of a decade’s worth of biofuels research, scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that significant knowledge gaps will likely prevent experts from adequately assessing biofuels’ full environmental impacts....While researchers have paid substantial attention to greenhouse gas emissions, the new study says, they have focused little on how the production and use of biofuels affects biodiversity and human health."
    • "'The last 10 years or so of research may have left us short of understanding what biofuels really may do to global economies, the environment, and society,' says Caroline Ridley, an ecologist with the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, in Arlington, Va., who led the study."
    • "The team found that the most common topics, with a few hundred papers each, were fuel production, feedstock production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Near the bottom of the list, 80 studies examined how biofuel production affects biodiversity, for example how local species fare after farmers clear large stretches of land to grow corn, switchgrass, palm oil, or other biofuel feedstocks. And only 15 studied the human health impacts of increasing levels of air pollutants produced by burning biofuel ethanol."
    • "The team also found that researchers have focused largely on the environmental consequences in the Northern Hemisphere even though regions in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Indonesia, will probably grow most of the feedstock crops...."
    • "Ridley and her team warn that these holes in biofuels research mean that expanded biofuels use could lead to unanticipated problems. As a result, she suggests her team’s results could offer a useful guide to decision makers in allotting research funds...."[3]
    • Access the study, Biofuels: Network Analysis of the Literature Reveals Key Environmental and Economic Unknowns
  • U.S. became world’s top ethanol exporter in 2011 18 January 2012 by Fuel Fix: “The United States became the world’s leading exporter of ethanol in 2011, selling a record level of the biofuel into overseas markets, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.”
    • “Through November, the United States exported 1.02 billion gallons of ethanol in 2011, in denatured and undenatured forms. That’s more than double the volume exported in all of 2010, about 400 million gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry’s trade group.
    • “'Prior to 2010, it was rare for the U.S. to export much ethanol at all. Then in 2011, it just exploded,' said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research for the Renewable Fuels Associations. 'The U.S. is far and away the leading exporter of ethanol worldwide.'”
    • Brazil has long held that title, but its ethanol market has suffered from high prices and short supplies in recent years, Cooper said. Brazil produces its ethanol from sugarcane, which has been in short supply because of unfriendly weather. The shortage has made it a much more expensive ethanol feedstock compared to corn.”
    • ”Brazil 'has left a void on the world market and the U.S. has filled that void,' Cooper said, adding that the new role likely will continue through 2012. 'We do expect continued strength in the export market because it is going to take Brazil some time to get back on its feet and be a leading exporter.'” [[4]
  • Lufthansa says biofuel trials successful, but should they continue?, 17 January 2012 by Renewable Energy Magazine: “After a six-month practical trial involving biosynthetic fuel, Lufthansa has announced the first positive results. According to initial calculations, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 1,471 tonnes. However, environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth are critical, saying the trials were just ‘a convenient smokescreen for aviation expansion’ and that biofuels cause food shortages.”
    • “In all, Lufthansa operated 1,187 biofuel flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt (Germany) under the burnFAIR project. The planes ran partially on biosynthetic kerosene, with one of their engines being powered by a 50-50 blend of regular fuel and biosynthetic kerosene, which the airline says is just as reliable as conventional jet fuel but has fewer environmental effects.”
    • “Biofuel, Lufthansa calculates, emits about 50 per cent less carbon dioxide than conventional fossil fuels. Biosynthetic kerosene is also free of sulphur and aromatic compounds. Furthermore, Lufthansa reveals that thanks to the higher energy density of biofuel, it has been possible to reduce the fuel consumption by more than one per cent.”
    • “'Our burnFAIR project went off smoothly and to our fullest satisfaction. As expected, biofuel proved its worth in daily flight operations,’ confirms Joachim Buse, Vice President Aviation Biofuel at Lufthansa."
    • "[I]n a recent statement, Joachim Buse revealed that the next issue is to ensure a viable supply of sustainable raw materials. ‘Lufthansa will only continue the practical trial if we are able to secure the volume of sustainable, certified raw materials required in order to maintain routine operations. As a next step, we will focus on the suitability, availability, sustainability and certification of raw materials,’ he said.”
    • “While Lufthansa says it may continue trialling biofuels if a suitable volume of sustainable, certified feedstock can be obtained, Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, believes all biofuel trials by the aviation sector should be halted. ‘Lufthansa’s bio-fuelled flights should remain grounded permanently – flying with biofuel is unsustainable, full stop. There simply isn’t enough biofuel out there without diverting land and food from hungry communities, and causing worse climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions,’ he warns.”
    • "However, other parties believe sustainable biofuels are possible. The Bioenergy and Water Nexus report jointly produced by UNEP, the Oeko-Institut and the International Energy Agency Task 43, for example, finds that while ‘bioenergy development needs to be carefully planned to avoid it adding to existing pressures’ and that ‘in some cases, these considerations may argue against bioenergy development', ‘well-planned bioenergy development can help human development’." [5]
  • Computer model optimizes biofuel operations 17 January 2012 by R&D: “Research into biofuel crops such as switchgrass and Miscanthus has focused mainly on how to grow these crops and convert them into fuels. But many steps lead from the farm to the biorefinery, and each could help or hinder the growth of this new industry.”
    • “A new computer model developed at the University of Illinois can simplify this transition, researchers say. The model can run millions of simulations, optimizing operations to bring down costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or achieve other goals.”
    • The model, named BioFeed, was developed by “agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting…with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez.”
    • "The model took into account regional attributes such as weather, crop yield, farm size, and transport distances, Shastri said. The model can optimize more than 300,000 variables, he said, including harvest schedules, equipment selection, storage sizing, transport distances, and the logistics of moving the biomass from place to place.”
    • “BioFeed allows policymakers, growers, investors, biorefinery owners, researchers, and other interested parties to learn from simulations without having to actually build the system first, the researchers said. ‘There are so many factors to consider, so many ways to operate, so many scenarios, so many potential policy changes,’ Ting said. ‘That's why the optimization tool itself is so important.’” [6]
    • Read the paper, Impact of distributed storage and pre-processing on Miscanthus production and provision systems.
  • The ILUC Debate, Four Years Later, 11 January 2012 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: “Four years ago, the biofuels industry was boorishly introduced to the theory of indirect land use change, or ILUC.”
    • “Timothy Searchinger’s now infamous article in the February 2008 edition of Science magazine boldly suggested increased corn ethanol production in the United States would lead to massive deforestation and conversion of grassland in nations halfway around the world. These hypothetical land conversions, he proffered, would release large amounts of stored carbon, indirectly making ethanol’s carbon footprint twice as bad as gasoline’s.”
    • “[Today] the scientific community has better data, improved modeling tools, and a better appreciation of the uncertainty and complexity involved in ILUC analysis. But, above all, they have the benefit of some experience and hindsight.”
    • Real world data show that Searchinger was dead wrong in his predictions that ethanol expansion would cause U.S. farmers to plant fewer soybean acres, or that they would '…directly plow up more forest or grassland.'”
    • Empirical data also prove wrong Searchinger’s notion that “higher prices triggered by biofuels will accelerate forest and grassland conversion” in South America. Data from Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology show dramatic reductions in Amazon deforestation over the past five years. In fact, 2010 saw the lowest level of deforestation since the government began collecting the data in 1988.
    • “While methods to empirically verify the past occurrence and magnitude of ILUC continue to improve, the economic models used to predict potential future ILUC also are being refined…. Contrasting these latest estimates with Searchinger’s outrageous value of 104 g/MJ shows his worst-case analysis was simply out of touch with reality.”
    • "Unfortunately, advancements in the science of ILUC have not been mirrored by improvements in biofuels regulations that penalize ethanol for hypothetical ILUC emissions. California and EPA continue to rely on outdated and inflated estimates of ILUC, to the detriment of our industry." [7]
  • Biofuel feedstocks must prove their green credentials, 12 January 2012 by Farmers Weekly: "Under the Renewable Energy Directive, which recently came into effect in the UK, mandatory sustainability and carbon targets have been set for all biofuels sold in Europe."
    • "This complex regulation requires biofuel manufacturers to demonstrate that the feedstocks they use comply with minimum land sustainability standards and give at least a 35% greenhouse gas emissions saving over their fossil fuel equivalent."
    • "The introduction of a 'sustainability' declaration on grain passports last season, combined with updates to the Red Tractor crops scheme...is designed to address the RED land sustainability requirement by guaranteeing crops are not grown on land with a high biodiversity value or high carbon value (eg peat land) and that the land meets cross-compliance requirements."
    • "But it is the GHG saving requirement of the RED that has generated some concern, because of the use of 'default values' when calculating the total carbon footprint of different feedstocks, says Ian Waller of Fivebargate consultants...."
    • "Regional carbon footprint numbers for different crops are defined in official reports for each country - the UK calculations were done for the Department for Transport by consultancy AEA. But this report (known as NUTS2) suggests only a few areas of the UK have a lower GHG footprint than the required RED threshold for oilseed rape, none of which are in prime arable regions. This casts a question mark over how easily oilseed rape from such regions could go into biofuel markets in the future, Mr Waller says."[8]



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