Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Biofuel Blues

Greetings Peaksters

       Liquid biofuel seems to be on the ropes.   Corn based ethanol has got that nasty food/ fuel problem.   And then there is the other inconvenient problem. - the corn belt has got that whole dustbowl/ desert issue.    Kansas today

Predicted Dustbowl 2.0



      And technology forcing decrees, seem to lack the mojo we'd hoped for.    If you decree it,  can they build it?   What ever happened to those high tech magicians, like Vinod Khosla,  who were going to solve our liquid fuel problems?   Taxpayers on the hook?

     Now a federal court has looked behind the curtain and declared celulosic ethanol to be vapor ware?    (No no,  it's just around the corner!)

  You don't suppose its like Robert Rapier  has been telling us?. Check out  Rapier's latest:  Why I don't ride a unicorn to work

Court Overturns E.P.A.’s Biofuels Mandate

Published: January 25, 2013
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court threw out a federal rule on renewable fuels on Friday, saying that a quota set by theEnvironmental Protection Agency for incorporating liquids made from woody crops and wastes into car and truck fuels was based on wishful thinking rather than realistic estimates of what could be achieved.
John Van Beekum for The New York Times
Ineos Bio is one of several companies that have invested in factories that convert woody material and wastes to ethanol. Its venture is in Vero Beach, Fla.
A blog about energy and the environment.
The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia involved a case brought by the American Petroleum Institute, whose members were bound by the 2012 cellulosic biofuels quota being challenged.
Production of advanced biofuels for use in gasoline is a cherished goal of the Obama administration and a major long-term hope for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
But production of the “cellulosic” fuel, made from woody material, has been slow to start up, making it virtually impossible to come by. That has presented the refiners, the ones required to buy the cellulosic fuel, with a quandary.
From 2010 through 2012, the E.P.A. has required gradually higher levels of cellulosic fuel to be incorporated into motor fuel each year, for a total of 20 million gallons to date.
But actual production has been near zero.
While the mandate springs from a 2007 act of Congress meant to promote advanced biofuels to run cars and trucks, “we are not convinced that Congress meant for E.P.A. to let that intent color its work as a predictor, to let the wish be father to the thought,” the court wrote.
Bob Greco, the American Petroleum Institute’s director for downstream and industry operations, welcomed the decision, saying that the structure for setting the quota was flawed.
“There is no onus or accountability on the person who is producing the fuel,” he said of the emergent cellulosic fuel ventures in an interview. “They’re incentivized to pump up their projections via press release, and make rosy estimates because there’s no skin off their back if they fail to hit those.”
Then the E.P.A. sets quotas that are too high, he said.
The three-judge panel made a similar point in its decision. The cellulosic fuel rule is fundamentally different from other regulations, it said.
It is intended to force an industry to develop new technology to meet environmental goals, but in this case, the regulated industry was the refiner, not the producer, the court said.
“Apart from their role as captive consumers, the refiners are in no position to ensure, or even contribute to, growth in the cellulosic biofuel industry,” the judges wrote.
They said the E.P.A.’s message was essentially, “Do a good job, cellulosic fuel producers. If you fail, we’ll fine your customers.”
But the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group that represents the cellulosic manufacturers, said the agency had acted reasonably.
“The E.P.A. did not determine a reasonably achievable volume and then inflate it,” the association said in a statement. “Rather, it set the volume based on the best information available to it at the time.”
The group also said that the decision did not constitute a broader rollback of the renewable fuel standard, which is what the oil industry was seeking.
Given that the larger category of advanced biofuels is left intact, the decision could lead to increased use of two noncellulosic fuels that are “advanced,” biodiesel made from fat and waste or soybeans, and ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane, to fill the gap. The Brazilian ethanol is considered advanced because making it from sugar requires less energy than making it from corn, as producers do in this country.
Cellulosic fuel that is produced from woody crop matter or waste can either be ethanol or components of gasoline or diesel fuel.
If cellulosic biofuel can eventually be commercialized, it would represent a triple play for administration policy. It would help cut oil imports, which would advance the nation’s energy security and its balance of payments. It would lower the amount of carbon loaded into the atmosphere. And if the technology can be exported, it would also reduce the importance of oil-exporting countries globally.
There are signs that the cellulosic sector could soon gain some momentum. Several companies have invested tens of millions of dollars in building commercial-scale projects. Last year, two companies said they were near production.
KiOR, one of the two companies, said on Friday that it had sold 1,024 gallons of diesel fuel in December that was produced at its plant in Columbus, Miss., but that it could provide no additional details in advance of its next earnings report.
The other venture, Ineos Bio, said it could not immediately respond to questions about the production status of its cellulose-to-ethanol plant in Vero Beach, Fla.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home