agriculture * food * energy * environment
Is America serious about weaning itself off of its dependency on foreign energy?
A recent Purdue University study found that the “United States doesn’t have the infrastructure to meet the federal mandate for renewable fuel use with ethanol but could meet the standard with significant increases in cellulosic and next-generation biofuels.”
The study found that the United States is at the “blending wall,” the saturation point for ethanol use.
“Without new technology or a significant increase in infrastructure, the country will not be able to consume more ethanol than is being currently produced,” according to the authors of the study.
The federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires an increase of renewable fuel production to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. About 13 billion gallons of renewable fuel was required for 2010, the same amount the study predicts is the threshold for U.S. infrastructure and consumption ability. And the study also found, that the country will not be able to achieve the 36 billion gallon per year goal by ethanol from corn alone.
According to the study, “…there simply aren’t enough flex-fuel vehicles, which use an 85 percent ethanol blend, or E85 stations to distribute more biofuels.”
According to EPA estimates, flex-fuel vehicles make up 7.3 million of the 240 million vehicles on the nation’s roads. Of those, about 3 million of flex-fuel vehicle owners aren’t even aware they can use E85 fuel.
There are only about 2,000 E85 fuel pumps in the United States, and it took more than 20 years to install them.
But according to the study’s author, “Even if you could produce a whole bunch of E85, there is no way to distribute it.”
The study found that the U.S. would need to install about 2,000 pumps per year through 2022 to do it.
What may need to happen to spur more investment and research into reaching the nation’s renewable energy goals is for the cost of oil to continue to skyrocket forcing the average American to pay more for their gasoline.
And that is exactly what is happening.
Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency, recently told the Financial Times that rapidly rising energy prices are a threat to the economic recovery.
“Oil prices are entering a dangerous zone for the global economy,” he told the newspaper. “The oil import bills are becoming a threat to the economic recovery. This is a wake up call to the oil consuming countries and to oil producers.”
And with easy oil not easy to get to and harder oil more expensive to get to and the dominance of the international marketplace shifting to big labor markets in Asia, demand and the cost of production are guaranteed to keep oil prices rising, especially as the global marketplace emerges from the worldwide recession and demand become keener.
For the U.S. to be competitive, that means either importing more foreign oil or government investment into alternative fuels, which so far have paid big dividends to the U.S. and states like Nebraska, who is the nation’s second leading ethanol producer.