The U.S Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) have announced a cooperative program titled “National Biofuels Action Plan” targeted at achieving “meaningful biofuels production by 2022. Increased vehicle fuel efficiency is also sought.
Key bio fuel subjects targeted by the Action Plan are:
– Feedstock production and logistics
– Conversion science and technology
– Blending and Distribution infrastructure
– Environmental health and safety
Adding incentive to get on with this effort are stated objectives of the two candidates for U.S. President and current President, who consider the U.S. annual outflow of $700 billion for purchased oil from foreign sources as a major reason for the country’s economic crisis.
USDA and DOE now co-chair interagency groups within a “Biomass Research Development Board” on projects enabled by legislation including the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act and 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Act. DOE is currently funded with $1 billion to support development of cellulosic ethanol while USDA has been provided with $600 million (since 2006) for R&D and demonstration of new biofuel technology.
A fundamental objective of the plan is renewable fuel not derived from food products which mean the planned end of corn and soy beans, for example, as fuel raw material. If. carried to it’s ultimate conclusion, the “Plan” will surely impact land quality, water use, nitrate run off and other issues related to current bio energy….
A recent Sustainable Mobility Seminar in Portland, Oregon, sponsored by Toyota (reported by Ward’s) produced a sobering outlook for bio fuel.. The consensus view expressed at the seminar was that the U.S. has insufficient land and water to support production of bio fuels able to offset a major portion of U.S. gasoline consumption said to be 390 million/gal/day. The one exception to this voiced at the seminar is fuel derived from algae.
Reporting by Google of news on algae based fuel indicates a bewildering array of big and small proposals for cultivation of algae and its conversion to fuel. Countless big and small ventures and institutions are proposing many approaches none of which have yet progressed to the level of volume production. Comprehensive (more)
detail on the economics and functional parts of many of the systems is also lacking which inhibits analysis of how each fits into U.S economic, vehicle and fueling needs and energy independence. .
Adding to the absence of production information, some alternative fuel systems are being developed by interests that do not wish to reveal details of their intellectual property. An example of this is Algenol’s “Ethanol from Seawater & Algae” program (Automotive Industries, August.2008). Algenol CEO, Paul Woods, recently told Automotive Industries it did not wish at this time to answer USDA’s request for details on its algae to ethanol system said to be exceptionally low cost produced in desert areas.
Another aspect of Algae is the unknown economics and degree to which algae oil can be converted to a bio gasoline for current technology engines.. The other side of that question is the difficulty and cost of new engines and fueling systems if needed with certain bio fuels.. General Manager Mic Mathews, Olson Oil Co, a northern Illinois fuels distributor, told Automotive Industries recently that sales of E85 (85% ethanol) are stalled due to lack of Underwriters Lab. approval of retail station E85 compatible pumps.
Among many other questions is the degree to which bio fuel raw material other than algae could satisfy some part of U.S. motor fuel needs without significant land and water use problems. An example would be Virent’s aqueous phase reforming system for production of bio gasoline from plant carbohydrates which requires large quantities of low cost cellulosic material