Biofuels

Adopted August 8, 2008

Overview

America’s reliance on oil for transportation fuel threatens the stability of the U.S. economy due to increased global demand for oil, declining conventional oil reserves, and resulting rising oil prices. Moreover, U.S. transportation sector oil consumption contributes roughly 30 percent (EPA 2008) of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. As roughly 58 percent of that oil is imported (EIA 2008) and oil is a global commodity, our oil dependency affects both American foreign policy and national security. As a result, low carbon substitutions for oil that can be expanded rapidly to scale are of great value to the U.S. economy, the environment, and national security.

After careful analysis, Fresh Energy believes that in the near term (until 2012), no existing biofuel technology will produce a fuel that will displace any significant portion of the demand for oil. Attention should therefore be given to efforts to curb that rising demand.

Reducing demand for oil

Fresh Energy gives highest priority to policy solutions than can reduce near-term demand for oil, but we recognize that long-term policy commitments are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

  • conservation – supporting initiatives to help people drive less and more efficiently
  • efficiency – encourage purchase of more efficient vehicles and support policies which increase fuel economy.
  • electrification of transportation – increased commitment to hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids in conjunction with a low-carbon electricity grid
  • transit and land-use – integrating transportation planning and urban design to support non-motorized transportation (walking and biking) and public transit
  • regional solutions: Support of high-speed inter-city rail

Fresh Energy has supported policies to further these goals, which include federal CAFE standards (higher efficiency standards for cars), state laws that lower emissions from cars, low carbon fuel standards, increased investment in public transit, and efforts to reflect external costs of fossil fuels in pricing, including taxation and carbon capping.

Biofuels: framework for future policy

Fresh Energy believes policies that accelerate cleaner, better biofuel innovation are ultimately part of an energy security and climate protection portfolio of policy solutions, provided that: 1) they can be expanded to scale and 2) they meet low-carbon standards.

Expansion of biofuels must not create unsustainable pressures on food, land, soil, or water resources. While multiple non-food-based biofuels technologies and processes are now under development, virtually all are in the research stage, capital-intensive, and unproven at production scale. Therefore, supportive policies should be technology- and feedstock-neutral, while encouraging development of these important future fuel sources. Winning innovations will be those that are economically favorable, scale rapidly, demonstrate significant life-cycle carbon reduction, align with food or conservation priorities, and integrate with existing fuel transportation and processing infrastructure.

Citations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2008, April). U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006. [USEPA#: 430-R-08-005]. Retrieved July 21, 2008.

Energy Information Administration Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government (EIA). (2008, April). Where Does My Gasoline Come From? [Brochure #: DOE/EIA-X059]. Retrieved Monday, July 21, 2008.