Growing algae for food and biofuel could cut greenhouse emissions

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

“Come round for dinner! I’ve got some lovely fresh algae.” Tempted? Perhaps not, but roll forward 50 years and micro-algae might well feature on the menu. Maybe not directly, but they could become a common base for cooking oils, and a major constituent of animal feeds. Cultivating algae for food and biofuel could make a serious dent in our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as helping to save freshwater resources and reduce deforestation.

Species diversity reduces chances of crop failure in algal biofuel systems

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

When growing algae in outdoor ponds as a next-generation biofuel, a naturally diverse mix of species will help reduce the chance of crop failure, according to a federally funded study by University of Michigan researchers.

Potential Biofuel Crops in Hawaii May Successfully Sequester Carbon in Soil

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Two potential biofuel crops in Hawaii–sugarcane and napiergrass–may sequester more carbon in soil than is lost to the atmosphere, according to a study published January 4, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Meghan Pawlowski from University of Hawaii Manoa, U.S., and colleagues.

Iowa State to manage biorefinery projects for new Manufacturing USA Institute

Read the full story from Iowa State University.

Iowa State University will bring its expertise in biorenewable technologies and pilot plant operations to the country’s 10th Manufacturing USA Institute.

Study finds people are willing to pay more for new biofuels

Read the full story from Washington State University.

When it comes to second generation biofuels, Washington State University research shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium of approximately 11 percent over conventional fuel.

“We were surprised the premium was that significant,” said Jill McCluskey, WSU professor in the School of Economic Sciences. “We wanted to study people in different regions of the country, to make sure we weren’t just getting a local result, and people in all three cities we studied said they would pay more for these fuels.”

The paper, “Consumer Preferences for Second-Generation Bioethanol,” was published in November in the journal Energy Economics.

Testimony: Renewable Fuel Standard: Program Unlikely to Meet Production or Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

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It is unlikely that the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil—will be met as envisioned because there is limited production of advanced biofuels and limited potential for expanded production by 2022. Advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and biomass-based diesel, achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions than conventional biofuels (primarily corn-starch ethanol), but the latter account for most of the biofuel blended into domestic transportation fuels under the RFS. As a result, the RFS is unlikely to achieve the targeted level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. For example, the cellulosic biofuel blended into the transportation fuel supply in 2015 was less than 5 percent of the statutory target of 3 billion gallons. Partly as a result of low production of advanced biofuels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers the RFS in consultation with other agencies, has reduced the RFS targets for such fuels through waivers in each of the last 4 years (see figure). According to experts GAO interviewed, the shortfall of advanced biofuels is due to high production costs. The investments required to make these fuels more cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels, even in the longer run, are unlikely in the current investment climate, according to experts.

Two GAO reports on the Renewable Fuel Standard

Renewable Fuel Standard: Program Unlikely to Meet Its Targets for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GAO-17-94)

The Renewable Fuel Standard program is unlikely to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding the U.S. renewable fuels sector. Advanced biofuels—fuels that achieve the most greenhouse gas reductions—aren’t being produced at the necessary levels, and they likely won’t be by 2022.

Less than 5% of the 3 billion gallon advanced biofuel RFS target was produced in 2015, and additional investments for commercialization seem unlikely.

Experts cited multiple federal actions that could incrementally improve the investment climate for advanced biofuels, such as reducing uncertainty about the future of the RFS and tax credits.

Renewable Fuel Standard: Low Expected Production Volumes Make It Unlikely That Advanced Biofuels Can Meet Increasing Targets (GAO-17-108)

The Renewable Fuel Standard program calls for greater use of advanced biofuels—fuel made from waste fats and oils or crop residues, for example—in the transportation fuel supply through 2022.

Yet, there is not nearly enough of this fuel to meet the program’s targets—nor will there likely be enough in the near future. Experts we interviewed cited the high costs of creating advanced biofuel, the relatively low price of fossil fuel, the timing and cost to bring new tech to commercial-scale production, regulatory uncertainty, and other issues as challenges to increased production.