Biofuels are a very important part of America’s economic and energy future.
On the geopolitical side, from Ukraine to the Middle East we see events that threaten energy stability. We see domestic manufacturing fighting its way back from Great Recession, and more evidence appears all the time that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions .
Biofuels can help in each.
Energy security is fundamental to the drive for stability and prosperity. New gas and oil finds have changed our positions on imports, and natural gas prices have changed the power mix. But oil remains a globally traded commodity, and we are still subject to market forces that lead to volatility and to the market forces in oil.
As biorefineries open and get to scale, we get closer to cost competitive renewable fuels, and take another step along the way to energy independence. We are told, with some incredible degree of precision, that renewable fuels supported 852,056 jobs in 2014 – and that is lot of folks and that matters to all of us. And it makes an important contribution to agriculture and manufacturing and will help families save at the pump.
Transport is 30% of energy mix on greenhouse gas emissions, and science is clear, fossil fuels are causing our climate to change with risks to economy, security and more. The IPCC 5th assessment has done a good job of collecting the knowledge on climate change. What we read there is that greenhouse gas emissions are causing further global, major and irreversible impacts, including extreme weather events — and something we should watch very carefully is the pH change in our oceans. The need to stop greenhouse gas convinces me and other folks we have to do something on climate change.
President Obama has laid out an agenda on climate action, to prepare for the effects of climate change and to lead global efforts to reduce emissions. We have committed to reduce our emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, that’s double the pace of our emissions reductions. Now, 2025 seems a long ways away, but to those of us who work on the scale of the energy system, it is terrifyingly close.
I am convinced we can do this.
Also, the President of China has declared they would make 20% non fossil reductions by 2030. These commitments by the world’s two largest economies and emitters have set the stage for Paris and gives us an opportunity path to historic actions.
Here, EPA has proposed 30% less emissions in power sector by 2030, and then there are CAFE fuel economy standards, doubling the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2025. And there’s a draft rule for substantial reductions for medium and heavy vehicles, representing a billion tons over the life of the vehicles. Given that the US emits 7 billion tons per year, that’s a lot, though it not a per year figure in the case of trucks.
Solar has increased 25X since 2009, wind is 4% of our energy mix, and electric drive vehicles are 3% of new car sales. LED lights are deployed at record rates. For the first time in 8 years we are meeting here in context of rapidly accelerating, changing landscape. With several commercial biorefineries – biofuels are taking their place.
Overall, the International Energy Agency has said that renewables have a credible path to being the leading resource by 2030. It is not a simple easy challenge, none of it will happen overnight. There’s a lot of research, a lot ahead, and we need to work on a variety of sources.
We have no shortage of energy to convert, it is about innovation to make it at scale and without competing with food based feedstocks or importing energy from other countries. In generations to come we need these drop in fuels even as we electrify the light duty fleet, because we need medium and heavy duty vehicles, and aviation and marine will need fuels.
There are other challenges besides technology, including a stable investment climate and infrastructure and we are working on that. But you should know that America’s farmers have a friend at the Department of Energy. There are naysayers that said advanced cellulosic biofuels couldn’t be done, but 3 American biorefineries have answered that.