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Biofuels Making Progress on Two Continents

The biofuel industry has continued to take hits over recent years, beginning with the food vs. fuel debate back in 2009, to the debates about scaling back of the renewable fuel standard in the U.S. 2013. In the EU, similar controversies have been waged over the amount of land that can be dedicated to biofuels.

Two announcements today highlight that progress is being made in the industry that has been fraught with controversy.

In a move that could restore biofuel market uncertainty in Europe, this week energy ministers are expected to reach political agreement on measures to incorporate indirect land use change (ILUC) into EU biofuels policies on Friday, which would effectively bring a close to almost two years of investment-blocking policy paralysis in the low carbon fuels sector, according to the Renewable Energy Association, an organization that represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas.

The Energy Council will vote on ILUC proposals agreed last month by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), including: 

  • A 7 percent cap on transport energy from crop-based biofuels
  • Mandatory reporting of ILUC factors for crop-based biofuels
  • Multiple counting of transport energy sources towards EU renewable transport target and overall renewable energy targets:
    • biofuels from non-crop feedstocks (including used cooking oil and tallow) at x2
    • electric rail at x2.5
    • electric vehicles at x5
    • A target of 0.5 percent transport energy from advanced biofuels from non-crop feedstocks (excluding used cooking oil and tallow)

While the REA said that it opposes the use of ILUC factors in greenhouse gas accounting for biofuels, these proposals should give the existing biofuels industry room to grow and invest in the development of advanced biofuels with even greater greenhouse gas savings. The REA also remains opposed to multiple counting towards the overall renewable energy target, as this effectively reduces the requirements for renewable heat and/or power, without actually reflecting a real increase in renewable transport energy.

These proposals, if agreed, will then go to second reading in the new European Parliament before becoming law.

REA Chief Executive Dr. Nina Skorupska said that “the ILUC saga has gone on long enough" and urged the ministers to reach a resolution so that they can move beyond this issue. "Assuming a smooth second reading, the UK Government will be able to set out its trajectory to the 2020 target and our transport members will be able to get back to doing what they do best: investing to supply sustainable fuel for our cars and feed for UK livestock,” she concluded.

US Department of Defense Seeks Biofuels

In the U.S. the Department of the Navy announced that it is seeking biofuels for operational use as part of its efforts to increase operational readiness and mission effectiveness by reducing its reliance on petroleum. 

The Navy said that it is seeking at least 37 million gallons of drop-in biofuels as part of its F-76 marine diesel and JP-5 shipboard jet fuel supply in the upcoming Inland/East/Gulf Coast bulk fuels solicitation released by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy this week.

Bids are due by July 9, and deliveries of fuel will start April 1, 2015. The Inland/East/Gulf Coast is the single largest bulk fuels acquisition program, and is valued in excess of $3.5 billion.

The biofuels sought can be blended in a range of 10 to 50 percent with conventional petroleum products and must meet all military fuel specification properties which make handling requirements and performance indiscernible to the end user. Currently, two biofuels pathways have been tested and qualified for use in Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, ships, vehicles and equipment and efforts are underway to adopt more pathways.

The DLA will purchase the biofuel blends only if they are cost competitive with their conventionally-derived counterparts. $27.2 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds, capped at 71 cents or less per neat biofuel gallon, are available to defray any additional costs that may exist for fuels derived from domestic feedstocks on the USDA-approved list, which you can find here

According to the Navy, expanding military energy sources improves the reliability of our overall fuel supply, adds resilience against supply disruptions, and gives the military more fuel options to maintain its readiness and defend the national security interests of the United States.

Complete details on the solicitation can be found at this link.

Lead image: Biofuels via Shutterstock 

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