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Competing with China

It would be nice if a sense of competition with China or Brazil on the development of biofuels and renewable energy would stimulate more support in the U.S.
By Susanne Retka Schill | November 26, 2012

A few weeks ago, I wrote about all the activity in advanced biofuels in Brazil. This week, I’d like to talk about China. Hart Energy’s Tammy Klein wrote a piece, published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Election is finally over; now let’s lock in an energy policy.”

Klein raises the point that the U.S. needs to be serious about addressing the country’s energy needs. “Economies run on [energy] and the ‘all-out, all-of-the-above’ approach that was treated like a badminton birdie during this political season is taken seriously in Beijing,” she wrote. She talks about the looming issue in the U.S. that we all know as the blend wall and the conflict with the volumes in the renewable fuels standard. To blend all the ethanol required by the RFS by 2022 with the declining volume of gasoline consumed in the U.S. would require E25 or E30, she wrote.

“We need a direction and a plan,” Klein wrote, “And neither political party has put together anything that's credible. The necessity for regulatory certainty for the industries involved -- and for us as consumers -- simply cannot be emphasized enough. One suggestion: Let's encourage development of advanced biofuels by providing greenhouse gas credits.”

With last year’s unusual winter, the summer’s drought and Hurricane Sandy thrusting climate change back into the American political discussion, it might be time to talk again about renewable energy’s role in reducing greenhouse gases.

She doesn’t go into depth on the Chinese developments, except to point out that it has been pursuing its own “all-out, all-of-the-above” strategy for traditional fossil fuels, as well as renewable energy.  Indeed, some of the same companies with proposed U.S. cellulosic ethanol projects are looking to Chinese partnerships to further their technology development. I’m thinking of LanzaTech, that purchased the former Range Fuels facility to use its gasification technology, and BlueFire Renewables, that is negotiating with a Chinese power utility for an investment.

It would be nice if a sense of competition with China or Brazil on the development of biofuels and renewable energy would stimulate more support in the U.S., a la the competition with the USSR that stimulated the race to the moon. I don’t recall stakeholders in the moon race, though, that are comparable to the oil industry giants, which on one hand fight renewable fuels tooth and nail, even as they prudently invest in biofuel R&D, just in case they lose the battle to keep renewables at bay.

 

 

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