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Certain biofuel mandates unlikely to be met by 2022; unless new technologies, policies developed
Date:10/4/2011

y uncertainties and high costs of production may deter investors from aggressive deployment, even though the government guarantees a market for cellulosic biofuels up to the level of the consumption mandate, regardless of price.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The extent to which using biofuels rather than petroleum will reduce greenhouse gas emissions is uncertain, the report says. How biofuels are produced and the changes in land use or land cover that occur in the process affect biofuels' impact on such emissions. Dedicated energy crops will have to be grown to meet the mandate, which will probably require conversion of uncultivated land or the displacement of commodity crops and pastures. If the expanded production involves removing perennial vegetation on a piece of land and replacing it with an annual commodity crop, then the land-use change would incur a one-time greenhouse gas emission from biomass and soil that could be large enough to offset benefits gained by displacing petroleum-based fuels with biofuels over subsequent years. Such land conversion may disrupt any future potential for storing carbon in biomass and soil. In addition, the renewable fuel standard can neither prevent market-mediated effects nor control land-use or land-cover changes in other countries.

Economic Effects

Only in an economic environment characterized by high oil prices, technological breakthroughs, and a high implicit or actual carbon price would biofuels be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels, the committee concluded. The best cost estimates of cellulosic biofuel are not economical compared with fossil fuels when crude oil's price is $111 per barrel. Furthermore, absent major increases in agricultural yields and improved efficiency in converting biomass to fuels, additional cropland will be required for growing cellulosic feedstock. This could create competition among different land uses and, in turn, raise croplan
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Contact: Jennifer Walsh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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