GRFA, RFA address global biofuels issues

By Erin Voegele | October 06, 2009
Report posted Nov. 5, 2009, at 5:00 p.m. CST

The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance is asking delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to recognize the environmental importance of biofuels, and to begin developing strategies that will ensure biofuels play a greater role in meeting global climate change objectives. To this end, the GRFA has released an industry position paper titled "Mitigating Climate Change in the Global Transport Sector: Seizing the Biofuels Opportunity at the COP15 in Copenhagen," which calls for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies in the transportation sector to take advantage of emissions reductions that result through the use of biofuels.

The GRFA's position is that existing biofuels technologies can - and will - play a significant role in reducing GHG emissions in the transportation sector over the next two decades, while at the same time improving energy security. The alliance further states that countries all around the world need to work together to increase the use of biofuels.

According to the paper, the International Energy Association forecasts that energy demand will increase up to 45 percent by 2030 and fossil fuels will account for 80 percent of the world's energy sources. In addition, approximately three-quarters of the projected increase for oil demand will come from the transportation sector. The paper estimates that the global vehicle fleet will increase from approximately 650 million vehicles in 2005 to 1.4 billion by 2030. The IEA estimates an additional 6 billion barrels per day of oil capacity will need to be installed between 2007 and 2030 to meet this demand.

The paper also draws attention to the economic benefits of biofuels. The World Bank estimates that the ethanol industry currently employs approximately 800,000 to one million people worldwide. In addition, over the past five years, the biofuels industry has invested more than $25 billion into the economies of Europe, the U.S., Canada and several other nations, according to the World Bank. In 2009, it is estimated that worldwide ethanol production will have replaced the need for 1.9 million barrels per day of crude oil.

The GRFA's paper also addresses lifecycle emissions. According to the paper, modeling from Natural Resources Canada shows that the carbon footprint of grain-based ethanol is shrinking and will continue to shrink over the next decade, while the U.S. DOE's Argonne National Laboratory predicts that cellulosic ethanol will reduce GHG emissions by more than 80 percent.

In addition, the GRFA states that biomass-based fuels offer economic opportunities to developing countries. Because biomass is much more democratically distributed than oil, biofuels represent an opportunity for countries with arable land to become producers of energy rather than importers of oil.

As for indirect land use change, the GRFA states that the current state of land use change theory is inconclusive. The alliance holds the position that no consensus exists on how to best analyze indirect land use impacts and that it's critical to ground the debate in reliable data, sound science and transparent analysis.

The alliance proposes six areas that need to be addressed in designing a path forward:
  • Governments should adopt biofuels friendly policies in the transportation sector
  • Governments, international bodies and academia must take into account the increasing efficiency of biofuels production and stop relying on outdated data and arguments
  • The World Bank, the U.N. and other international bodies need to increase investment in the agricultural sectors of developing nations
  • Industry, international bodies, governments and non-governmental organizations must ensure transparency in long-term land deals in developing countries
  • Governments should base indirect land use change policies on transparent and unequivocal scientific evidence only
  • Aggressive research and development tax policies that will encourage investment of first- and second-generation biofuels technologies should be adopted

    Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen also addressed the international issues facing the biofuels industry during a recent speech at F.O. Licht's World Ethanol 2009 Conference in Paris.

    According to Dinneen, no nation has been able to form a domestic biofuels industry without significant government assistance. He called for ethanol producers around the world to work together. "If we are going to make sure that public policies work for us and not against us then we need to band together and stand together," he said.

    Dinneen urged the world ethanol industry to come together behind a common agenda, take on common threats, and move forward with a common vision of producing energy, preserving the environment, and promoting economic opportunity. If the industry can remain united, Dinneen said the potential for ethanol is unlimited.