The world is on the brink of an energy crisis and what could be termed an “energy revolution” is on the rise to address the need for clean affordable power. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal are gaining ground in the energy sector, but perhaps one of the greatest hopes—especially in the transportation and diesel machinery industries—is biofuels. The ability to store a liquid as a combustible energy source is an oftentimes overlooked advantage that biofuels have over electrical storage systems such as lithium batteries. The commercial airline sector is certainly investing in a biofuels future, and mining companies are beginning to take advantage of biodiesel to power their gargantuan machinery.
However, the EPA has released the first draft of their report: Biofuels and the Environment: The First Triennial Report to Congress (EPA/600/R-10/183A). The report is the result of the 2007 governmental mandate to increase biofuel production in the US to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. It finds that biofuel production in the United States has not proven to be environmentally sound, particularly corn ethanol production. Water contamination through chemical runoff, the destruction of natural habitats, and concerns over invasive species through the increased demand for feedstocks are just a few of the major concerns put forth in the EPA’s findings.
The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, responded, the “EPA’s failure to provide this report in any context with the environmental degradation done by fossil fuel exploitation and use is irresponsibly misleading. Energy and environmental decisions do not exist in a vacuum.”
The association further added, “the use of biofuels, when all things are equally considered, is a far better energy choice than Canadian tar sands, oil shale, and other increasing sources of petroleum,” the group added.”
Biofuels have been held up as one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels due to their similar combustible nature and compatibility with already existing combustion engines. The U.S. government even increased the standard ethanol levels in gasoline mixtures from 10 percent to 15 percent for certain vehicles in weeks past in an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Will this new report make the government think twice about this decision? What’s more, how will this report effect investment in biofuels? The EPA makes a point of stating that this report is still in draft from and should not be quoted or used for official analysis just yet, but its findings should give investors and policymakers a heads-up as to what may be on the horizon for the biofuels market in the United States. To read the full report click here.