If you’ve been following the previous posts in this Genera Energy blog series, you have a pretty good idea why I’m bullish on the outlook for biomass as a key component of a safe, secure, sustainable, and cost competitive energy future.  But wait … there’s more!

We’ve covered some of the more oft-cited benefits of advanced biofuels: they are renewable, sustainable, and economically competitive on an unsubsidized market basis, and we’ve looked at how advanced biofuels manufacturing is really a diverse product platform that goes way beyond ethanol, the fungible and compatible nature of advanced biofuels; and the on-demand availability and storability of cellulosic biofuels.  Today we look at the benefits regarding energy efficiency and reduced emissions as well as an important benefit that hasn’t gotten much attention related to the local nature of biofuels production, supply, and use.

Energy Efficient We need renewable alternative fuel to be energy efficient over the fuel life cycle.  There is little recognition that gasoline actually has a negative return on fossil energy invested.  From discovery to extraction to transportation to refining, each unit of fossil energy over that gasoline life cycle only returns 0.85 of that energy as gasoline, meaning we lost the value of 15% of the energy along the way.  Corn ethanol has a positive energy return, with each unit of fossil energy invested over the entire production life cycle returning about 1.3 units of energy as corn ethanol.  Recent studies indicate that the energy return for ethanol produced from switchgrass can be 8 to 12 times the amount of fossil energy expended over the entire life cycle.
Clean Sustainable transportation fuels should be clean burning with reduced emissions and greenhouse gases.  Cellulosic biofuels have been shown to reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 85% compared to gasoline over their full life cycle.
Local There are obvious national security and energy security benefits from sourcing our energy domestically and not exporting currency.  But a “local” fuel is more than just a “domestically produced” fuel. It’s also a distributed system of sourcing and production. Having a few mega-refineries concentrated in a few coastal regions introduces vulnerability in energy security. A biomass fuel supply that can be produced throughout the country, regionally tailored to the biomass feedstocks that are a best fit locally, further enhances our energy security, our national security, and our resiliency in responding to and recovering from natural disasters and other potential supply disruptions.

Has the refresher course on the characteristics of cellulosic biofuels convinced you they are as attractive a solution today as they were a few years back when they were a media darling?  Either way, there’s still more to the story.  And in my opinion, it’s perhaps the most compelling part of the story.  Check back soon for the last installment in this Genera Energy blog series demonstrating that the promises of advanced biofuels are no longer somewhere in the distant future, but are very real today.

By Kelly Tiller, President and CEO