Biofuels: Where are we going?

Posted By on February 3, 2006

BiofuelsAs we move forward with alternative energy and ways to displace petroleum as a primary fuel, I believe it is important to encourage industry and the country to explore a variety of option. The old adage of “placing all your eggs in one basket” apply to the predicament of what energy source we should consider. Personally, I believe we’ll eventually move towards hydrogen as a portable energy source, but see the road long and complicated. Even if we eventually adopt hydrogen fuel cells, I believe there will be combinations of petroleum and biofuels for many years to come. On my blog, I try not to overly focus on politics, but since the last two posts detail politicians (President Bush, Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner) who both are supportive of farm based renewable fuels … and are regularly promoting biofuels as a way to overcome our “petroleum addiction,” I wanted to stress a few key points because unlike hydrogen … it is something we can do today.

    Key facts about biodiesel and ethanol

*There are more than 4 million FFVs (Flexable Fuel Vehicles) that can run E85 (85% ethanol) currently on America’s roadways.

* Biodiesel works in any diesel engine and is much cleaner burning than petroleum diesel. It can be blended with petroleum at any percentage and can be made from any fat or vegetable oil. About 90 percent of U.S. biodiesel is made from soybean oil. It takes roughly 7 pounds (about 3.2 kg) of soybean oil to make one gallon (about 3.8 liters) of diesel.

* Ethanol, an alcohol most often made from grains and sugar cane, is blended with gasoline to reduce tailpipe emissions in cars and trucks. One acre of corn can produce 300 gallons of ethanol — enough to fuel four cars for one year with a 10% ethanol-blend.

* Biodiesel production capacity in Europe, mainly in Germany and France, has risen sharply as countries try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut the bloc’s dependence on fuel imports. The EU in 2004 set a target that fuels should contain 5.75 percent of biofuels in 2010.

* Brazil is the world’s leading producer and exporter of ethanol, derived from the country’s huge sugarcane crop. It already blends its domestic gasoline with 25 percent ethanol and is looking to U.S., Japanese and Indian markets to boost exports.

* In the United States, the second largest biofuel producer after Brazil, hundreds of major truck fleets use biodiesel including all branches of the U.S. military, NASA, several state departments of transportation and public utility fleets.

* China, the world’s second largest energy consumer, is also the third largest ethanol producer. The Philippines encourages use of coconut oil for biodiesel.

* The International Energy Agency estimates that under the most optimistic scenario ethanol could make up 10 percent of world gasoline by 2025.

Source: Reuters and International Energy Agency.

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