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Moving Past the “Wall” of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Martha Hay August 2011 Exploring the limits of corn-based ethanol as a renewable fuel.

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Presentation on theme: "Moving Past the “Wall” of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Martha Hay August 2011 Exploring the limits of corn-based ethanol as a renewable fuel."— Presentation transcript:

1 Moving Past the “Wall” of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Martha Hay August 2011 Exploring the limits of corn-based ethanol as a renewable fuel

2 The Energy Crisis In 2003, 83% of energy came from fossil fuels ▫Fossil fuels = nonrenewable  limited supply US makes up ~5% of global population, yet consumes 25% of oil US imports ~60% of its oil Developing countries  growing worldwide energy consumption Increasing competition = threat to US fuel supply

3 Additional concerns Environmental concerns ▫Combustion byproducts:  CO2 – greenhouse gas  CO – pollutant  NOx –pollutant Drilling  oil spills ▫BP Gulf Coast ▫Exxon Valdez

4 Push towards alternative fuels ~74% of petroleum went to transportation sector in 2009 Alternative transportation fuel could significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption

5 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Promote development of alternative energy ▫Tax incentives ▫Mandates by volume (gallons) Goal=36 billion gallons renewable fuel in 2022 Blenders contribute Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO)

6 4 Categories Total renewable fuels Advanced biofuels Cellulosic and agricultural waste-based biofuel Biomass-based diesel (BBD) ry/renewal_fuels_inc/

7 practices-are-washing-the-ground-from-beneath-our-feet/

8 2022 Goal attainable? 36 billion gallons renewable fuels No more than 15 billion from corn-based ethanol Biodiesel capped at 1 billion for 2012 ▫2022 goal not set ≥ 16 billion from cellulosic Cellulosic falls short ▫Bumped down from 250 to 6.6 million gallons for 2011 Where will the rest of this renewable fuel come from?

9 Corn-based ethanol In 2010, ethanol production contributed $53.6 billion to the GDP In 2010, ethanol production employed 70,000 Americans In 2004, CO 2 emissions reduced by > 7 million tons, equivalent to removing >1 million cars from the road for 1 year

10 Ethanol Consumption 14.31 billion gallons produced in 2010 Cars approved for 10% ethanol (E10) in gasoline ▫Exception Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs)  Can use up to 85% ethanol 74% gasoline produced in the U.S. contains ethanol Two types: ▫Corn-based –contributes the majority ▫Cellulosic – not economical to manufacture

11 Ethanol is green Environmental “savings” actually just a trade-off Not cost-competitive even after 30 yrs of development &subsidies ▫Ethanol not actually that young Limited biomass Farm equipment uses fossil fuels Food versus Fuel  2009 national ethanol production used ~32% of U.S. corn crop Corrosive  infrastructure problems

12 Pushing past the ethanol “wall” Corn will be main contributor for RFS Wall = when the U.S. fuel supply can’t absorb anymore ethanol ▫Assuming the following don’t change drastically  E10 limit  # of FFVs  Availability of E85

13 How to push past the “wall” A) Increase the concentration of ethanol in gasoline for regular cars (E10  E15) B) Increase number of FFVs on the road and availability of E85 at fueling stations

14 Option A – Approve higher blends EPA tried to pass an E15 waiver. Opposition: ▫Insufficient, incomplete DOE testing ▫Several automobiles failed testing for emissions ▫E10 already causing problems for non-road engines (chainsaws, lawnmowers, boats) ▫Some states want E0 to be available

15 Option B –more FFVs and E85 There are only 8 million FFVs on the road, and approx. 1% of fueling stations offer E85. EPA estimates that FFV owners only fill up with E85 about 5% of the time Retailers have to pay for the modifications for E85 retail stations (expensive)

16 Inevitable problems Significant hurdles regardless ▫Ethanol transported via rail (66%), trucks (29%), and barge (5%)  Not compatible with petroleum pipelines  New pipelines expensive ▫Retail stations  USTs, nozzles, and piping need to be upgraded  Retailers would have to upgrade their systems on their own  expensive

17 When in doubt: throw more money at it! Blender’s credit for following a federal mandate Corn ethanol subsidies totaled $7.0 billion in 2006 Subsidies unevenly distributed

18 Recommendations Cut subsidies for ethanol and oil industries Should not approve E15 just to pass the “wall”  need to complete sufficient testing Provide financial assistance for retailers willing to provide E85 Invest in drop-in fuels ▫Technology development funding E0 available for non-road engines Regional fuels

19 Potentially Useful Conversion Processes New Zealand

20 Broaden the RFS Add category for electric/hybrid cars Two pools for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles ▫Biodiesel capped at 1 billion gallons

21 Best Practices Reduce energy consumption ▫Passivhaus – German building standard ▫Increase gas prices (consider Europe) ▫Promote electric and hybrid cars Promote other renewable energy: solar, wind, nuclear  can all contribute to electric Education  informed decision makers International collaboration worth consideration

22 Questions?

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