Biofuels More Effective, ‘Cheaper Than EVs’ to Cut Emissions

by | Sep 18, 2013

uk biofuels studyIncreasing the amount of biofuels blended into road transport fuels from 5 percent to 19 percent could cut the UK’s annual car emissions up to 27 percent, or 12 million metric tons, by 2030, according to a report by consultancy Element Energy and commissioned by oil company BP.

The Role of Biofuels Beyond 2020 says increasing biofuel blends will push up yearly fuel costs for drivers by £13 ($20.77).

Blending advanced “drop-in” biofuels into transport fuels is still a cheaper, more effective way to reduce emissions than using plug-in electric vehicles in the timeframe to 2030, the report says.

For instance, an incremental introduction of a 20 percent ethanol blend beginning in 2020 and then moving to 50 percent cellulosic ethanol a decade later would cut emissions 4 million metric tons in 2030 and cost the UK £336 million ($536 million). Achieving the same emissions savings through the adoption of plug-in vehicles would cost more than £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in customer incentives and other expenses.

The advantage of using biofuels is that they complement hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are expected to dominate low-carbon powertrains during the 2020s and can make use of the fuel, the report says.

Advanced biofuels address emissions of both new and existing vehicles, reducing emissions earlier than new powertrains and lessening the risk of relying on new technology, which takes longer to deploy.

In the United States, using biofuels is more troublesome. The Department of Energy has failed to meet its goals for commercial-scale biofuels refineries, according to an audit released this week by the DOE’s Inspector General. The audit found 40 percent of the 15 projects selected for federal grants were scrapped by the DOE because recipients didn’t meet targets.

Skyrocketing ethanol credit prices are also costing refineries hundreds of millions of dollars, and could raise prices at the gas pump. Refiners Valero and PBF Energy say credits might cost them $800 million and $200 million, respectively. Some industry figures, traders and analysts say Wall Street is exploiting the market through practices such as stockpiling credits.

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