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What Happened to Advanced Biofuels? Let Me Explain

Advanced Biofuels

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Last week, The Economist posed the following question: “What happened to biofuels?” The biofuels in question are so-called second generation biofuels that are produced from trees, grasses, algae, — in general, feedstocks that don’t also have a use as food. The appeal is obvious to anyone concerned about the world’s dependence on petroleum, and further worried that a major shift to biofuels will cause food prices to rise. So let’s address that question.

Entrepreneurs Revive a Century-Old Idea

About a decade ago, a number of entrepreneurs began to use their political influence to convince the US government that the only things keeping the US from running our cars on advanced biofuels was lack of government support, and interference from oil companies. These advocates eventually won over enough political support that state and federal governments began to funnel large amounts of taxpayer dollars into advanced biofuel ventures. President Bush spoke of running cars on switchgrass in his 2006 State of the Union address.

The federal government sought to deal with supposed oil company intransigence with a mandate requiring gasoline blends to contain growing volumes of corn ethanol initially, but starting in 2010 advanced biofuels as well. The federal government mandated that by the year 2022 the fuel supply had to use 36 billion gallons of biofuels, with 21 billion gallons coming from advanced biofuels.

But the history of cellulosic fuels goes back much further than many of those entrepreneurs realized, and many set out to reinvent the wheel with tax dollars. It was nearly 200 years ago, in 1819, when French chemist Henri Braconnot discovered how to break cellulose down into component sugars, which can then be fermented to ethanol. The Germans first commercialized cellulosic ethanol production from wood in 1898, and the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the US was built in 1910 to convert lumber mill waste into ethanol. Nevertheless, many budding biofuel entrepreneurs insisted that this was a field in its infancy, and therefore required generous government support until it could stand on its own.

Some attempted to produce fuel from wood via a different route. Wood (or natural gas or coal) can be partially burned to produce synthesis gas (syngas), which consists of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. That syngas can be converted into diesel (among other fuels) using the same process that Germany used to produce fuel in World War II. The problem is that this is a terribly expensive process, and so there are only a handful of commercial plants around the world that use either natural gas or coal (South Africa, which had its roots in their inability to secure petroleum because of sanctions resulting from their apartheid policies).

We do have a small trickle of advanced biofuels that are beginning to collect EPA credits. In other words, for the first time the EPA is officially approving batches of these fuels for sale into the market. This first took place last year with a batch of 20,069 gallons from a company that subsequently went bankrupt. And therein lies the challenge. Of course this stuff can be produced. But can it be produced economically? The answer to that is no, we are nowhere near that point with the approaches that have been attempted to date regardless of the hype to the contrary.

Moore’s Law to the Rescue?

The high costs have never been a deterrent for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who wielded Moore’s Law as the solution to every problem. In their minds, the advanced biofuel industry would mimic the process by which computer chips continually became faster and cheaper over time. But advanced biofuels amounted to a fundamentally different industrial process that was already over 100 years old. A decade into this experiment it is clear that Moore’s Law isn’t solving the cost problem.

In an interview with Wired Magazine in 2006 called My Big Bet on Biofuels, Vinod Khosla, one of the co-founders and the first CEO of Sun Microsystems,  described his investment in Kergy (which later became Range Fuels). He wrote that to his knowledge, they had invented “the first anaerobic thermal conversion machine.” In fact at that time there were hundreds if not thousands of these gasifiers around the world, mostly used to produce power (a much lower cost proposition than biofuel production).

My experience touches on all of these areas: biomass conversion, gasification, and production of liquid fuels — and I wrote a number of articles critical of the claims coming from the Range Fuels/Khosla camp. Some referred to me as “Range Fuels’ Number 1 Critic.” But the mainstream press couldn’t say enough great things about the company, right up until they declared bankruptcy in 2011. Hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer and investor dollars had been wasted, and the company never produced a drop of qualifying renewable fuel.

Now some might say that failure is just a part of doing business and trying new things. That’s true, and I would never have criticized these companies and their promoters except they were influencing energy policy on the basis of inflated claims and collecting tax dollars as a result. If entrepreneurs try and fail on their own dime, then that’s their business. (I work for an energy entrepreneur). But if they take tax dollars, it’s my business as a taxpayer. And if they take investment dollars, it may become my business if I am advising investors.

Epic Analyst Fail

In fact I did give a fair bit of investment advice as some of the advanced biofuel firms began to take their companies public. Amyris (NSDQ: AMRS), Gevo (NSDQ: GEVO), and KiOR (NSDQ: KIOR) were three Vinod Khosla-backed companies that went public, and the value of his stakes has reportedly declined more than a billion dollars since (nearly a billion dollars at the time of that article, but the shares of all those companies continued to decline). I have been asked by investors about the prospects for each of these three companies (among others) since their IPOs, and every time I warned people away. That has proven to be good advice, because since their respective IPOs Amyris is down 85 percent, Gevo has fallen 89 percent, and KiOR is down 88 percent.

Yet one analyst after another recommended these firms to clients, and then continued to reiterate those recommendations. Take KiOR, for example. KiOR uses a process in which they rapidly heat up wood chips to form a bio-oil, which can then be upgraded with hydrogen in pretty standard refining equipment to produce diesel and gasoline. KiOR has their own spin on the process, but the basic process has been around for a long time. The problem has always been cost.

After the IPO, the market promptly bid KiOR’s value up to $2 billion. In response, I wrote an article arguing that KiOR was grossly overvalued. (I explained my decision not to short the company even though I felt they were grossly overvalued, but some investors contacted me to tell me they did short the company on the basis of my recommendations).

But analysts remained undeterred. After KiOR announced a net loss of $31.3 million for the first quarter of this year, several analysts reiterated ratings of “Overweight” or “Outperform” on the company. For instance, Pavel Molchanov from Raymond James reiterated the “Outperform” rating that he first made on August 15, 2011 when shares were at $11. When second quarter results came in far below projections, Molchanov reiterated the Outperform rating and $9 price target. Shares are now down under $2, a drop of more than 50 percent just since the Q2 results were released.

The point here is that this was totally predictable from the chemistry and low energy density of biomass, and of the science involved in trying to economically turn that into a low margin commodity like fuel. There is no magic catalyst or magic process that can overcome that. No matter how I sliced the numbers, I couldn’t see how any of the wood to fuel companies were going to make any money other than through government largesse. So I advised investors to stay away, even as the analysts continued to believe the hype that many of these companies put out.

No Funeral Just Yet

KiOR isn’t dead yet though. In fact, I talked to a reporter on Monday, and advised that they would probably bounce off the bottom soon. There is probably one or two cycles of more positive news ahead, and they may very well get additional injections of cash from Mr. Khosla. As if on queue, shares were up 25% in trading on Tuesday. But even though the share price may see sharp gains at times, the road ahead will be very challenging for them, and the risk of bankruptcy is high in the long-term. So I would continue to avoid most companies in this space, unless you simply want to put some money down in lieu of a trip to Vegas.

I don’t feel the same way about the entire renewable energy space. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, for instance, benefit from Moore’s Law effects, but their manufacture is very different than the production of biofuels from biomass. And in fact, we are seeing not only exponential growth in the installation of solar PV panels, we see costs dropping exponentially. I have been reiterating my view for more than six years that I think the future belongs to solar power. The mistake from biofuel entrepreneurs, politicians, and investors in that space was that this is how things would play out for biofuels.

Photo Credit: Advanced Biofuels/shutterstock

Content Discussion

John Miller's picture
John Miller on September 13, 2013

The major challenge for advanced biofuels continues to be negative ‘net energy values’ (NEV; finished biofuel heat contents much less than required cultivation-processing heat inputs), and of course overall economics.  The Renewable Fuel Standards under EISA 2007 not only created mandates for producing and blending increased volumes of advanced biofuels (Re. slides 7 and 9) and that the produced advanced biofuels full-lifecycle GHG emissions must be 50-60% less than the petroleum fuel displaced.  The problem statement to date has been that nearly all advanced biofuels technologies struggle to achieve reasonably positive NEV (and reduced costs) and generally meeting the 50-60% GHG reduction specification requires utilizing a ‘technical trick’.  In the case of cellulosic based biofuels the technical trick is burning all the waste or unconverted cellulosic material to generate heat and/or electric power consumed in the production faculty.  Installation of the biomass steam boiler and/or power generator adds significantly to the capital costs of a new advanced biofuel plant.

Tim Havel's picture
Tim Havel on September 13, 2013

Good article. I would like to point out, however, that fuels are the absolute lowest value product that one might seek to produce from biological sources. Plastics, other materials, and of course pharmaceuticals come out way ahead. Even foodstuffs come out way ahead, as the success of Quorm by Marlow Foods shows. This is intimately tied to the carbon efficiency of the conversion process. For a VC that knows how to invest in this space, check out http://www.firstgreenpartners.com/.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on September 14, 2013

Even if advanced (cellulosic) biofuels could be produced for a competitive cost, it still would not be desirable to produce a large fraction of our transportation fuel from biomass.  The land requirement would massively increase our footprint on the environment (biofuel’s annual energy production per unit area is very poor, about 0.5W/m^2=> 2000 sq.km per GW, according to D.MacKay).   And most high-renewable penetration studies of the electric grid assume that a large amount of biomass will be available for dispatchable electricity production, further competing for land.

We can instead use the land for wind or solar farming, then use the electricity to make fuel (such as hydrogen, or the much more practical ammonia fuel).  Compared to cellulosic biofuels, a given amount of land can annually yield about 5x more energy per acre when making ammonia from wind, and 30 times more making ammonia from solar.

Inter-continental air travel, motorcycles, and lawn mowers are special applications that require special properties that only a carbon-based fuel can provide.  But for cars, trucks, ships, and trains, ammonia, NH3 is adequate (see Korean NH3 proto car).  Ammonia can be burned in modified internal combustion engines, which (like methanol and diesel engines) can be 15-25% more fuel efficient than gasoline engines (if costs come down enough, direct ammonia fuel cells, which exist today could boost efficiency even more).

Ammonia is made today from fossil fuel (using carbon capture and sequestration in some plants) for a cost which is competitive with that of gasoline.  It is the cheapest fuel that can be made from solar, wind, OTEC, or nuclear power.  Hydrogen is cheaper at the factory, but is very expensive to transport to end users, and requires a tank more than double the size of one for ammonia for the same energy content.

If made from wind power in the central plains of the US, it would need a subsidy roughly equivalent to the one that makes wind economical for electricity (using the EIA cost for wind power of $.087/kWh, the energy in one gallon of gasoline, 34.4 kWh, would cost $3, even before conversion losses).  Of course it would need no subsidy if it was made from a mixture of old (cheap) and new (expensive) nuclear plants (i.e. once the nuclear transition is started, we’ll always be able to afford to continue, since the nuclear plants have such long lives).

 

Here’s a good intro to ammonia fuel:  NH3 – The Other Hydrogen

Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on September 14, 2013

Nathan, nice final link. thanks. It lead me to this

http://nh3fuel.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/2011-tiffany-reese.pdf

wind to ammonia project at the University of Minnesota Morris. That project is based on the very sensible use of ammonia locally for fertilizer. However as a way of using excess wind generated (or solar) electricity for vehicle fuel production the applications widen. Here in NZ we are subsidising comalco to use massive amounts of hydroelectricity to smelt aluminium. I say, drop the subsidy, kick them out and use the same electricity to start a “water to ammonia” industry. Finally we could make a dent in our CO2 emissions, maintain employment in Southland and move towards independance from petroleum companies.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on September 15, 2013

My apologies for not reading too closely much of this endless biofuels discussion.

But with the news dominated by forest fires, drought, now flood and mudslides, and also a few wars and economic uncertainty; it would be nice to discuss how we might do better managing what used to be considered “green” resources. Others lament CO2 emissions while ignoring where the new carbon came from.

It always degenerates into how certainly impossible some measure of adaptation to natural resource degradation will be. Good ideas are fun to learn, and worth reading.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on September 15, 2013

Isn’t big hydro great?  Cheap electricity, paid for by our parent’s generation, much of it will still be around to benefit our grandkids.

What should we be doing to benefit our kids?  Well, they’ll want cheap energy, cars, and jobs.  So don’t kick out your employers too quickly, but do minimize the subsidies.

About the cheap energy, rather than just living off of the largesse of our parents, shouldn’t we add a little more clean energy to the portfolio (so our kids can make metal and ammonia)?  Do you have any more big rivers you don’t mind damming up?  If not, consider giving your kids the gift of a long-lived power plant (e.g. nuclear power or perhaps solar).

Alistair Newbould's picture
Alistair Newbould on September 15, 2013

Room for one or two more big hydro projects but the largest of these (Beaumont on the Clutha) has recently been shelved indefinitely. Main issue is population density in Auckland, hydro opportunities in the south and Cook Strait in between. Which is why I believe a big push to introduce solar water heating in Auckland  has the best opportunity to make an immediate dent in fossil fuel electricity generation. Currently reading this government think tank paper

http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/Hot-Waterweb.pdf

which may be of interest.

But then we are straying off topic (again!)

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on September 16, 2013

After a little reading on the web site “renewableenergyworld.com” there were a half dozen significant current articles describing great efforts in bioenergy or biomimetic fuel energy.

Two describe “solar biofuel” work. One is a $122 million research consortium including CalTech and Berkeley reported by Bloomberg News. The other was similar, describing bio nano quantum dots pretty well.

Then there were articles describing the conversion of coal to biomass plants with various specifics in Canada, France, and Finland. The Finland article informed readers how to prevent forest fires.

That doesn’t touch on Brazil’s efforts.

A lot of different things are happening around the world that don’t fit in pre-packaged thinking. In truth, too much is happening to keep aware of, even for the most interested. I didn’t even know about the Canadian biomass plant (largest in North America) happening just north of my border.

If you think bio is failing, others clearly don’t.

Robert Rapier's picture
Robert Rapier on September 16, 2013

If you think bio is failing, others clearly don’t.”

Well that’s an all-encompassing statement Rick, and not at all reflective of what I wrote. I am working on several “bio” projects myself, so I obviously don’t think that. What I do know — as outlined in my article — is that the major, hyped projects totally failed to deliver for reasons that were obvious at the time to many observers. When the advanced biofuel mandates have to be rolled back by 99% year after year — and then even those mandates aren’t met — then clearly something has not gone according to plan. 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on September 16, 2013

I just replied to a big corn farmer email who hates all these government subsidies; except ethanol and VA health care and Social Security. If he knew how alone I often defend some aspects of ethanol!

I wish I had time to read, understand and judge all the wrong things in the world. What I did like is how closely this bio nano solar fuel stuff looks like my thesis work nobody understood 30 years ago. Linus Pauling got a Nobel Prize for elucidating the alpha-helix protein structure at CalTech roughly 1952. I got insulted suggesting there might be physics associated with these nano structures. Some thought I was talking about Watson-Crick DNA helix. Now their use as water photochemical processors is attracting an all-star cast.

Same about microcomputers, the internet, LCDs, etc. It takes a generation to sort out the good from the bad ideas. You are right, the intensive hype and insult is too much. Maybe American technology leadership will not survive it all. But I don’t want to waste time on it. Thanks for reading this slop (if you did).

Jonathan Cole's picture
Jonathan Cole on September 19, 2013

I am no longer amazed at the terrible decisions made by governments, VCs, and super-wealthy investors.Our economic system has deviated so far from the idea that a free market system uses capital to create valuable products and services that people will buy. It is so far down the road of speculative excess that the economists have recently come up with a new term to describe why the market is not working the way it is supposed to. They call it “speculative variance”. See: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17506

The whole economic game with its “financial innovation” has degenerated into a hyped up con game where the rule is to create as much cash as possible without any concern about “value propositions” or other such old-fashioned concepts.

This corruption is preventing us from solving our problems. The money is largely going to the wrong places. And I am talking about trillions of dolars world-wide. This is a bigger problem than climate change, massive unintended consequences of the industrial revolution or wholesale contamination of all of our life-support systems on the land, in the air and in the oceans.

Why, because this kind of chasing after money instead of chasing progress and prosperity is corrupting nearly the entire population from  the minimum wage worker to the corporate titans in league with thier politician lapdogs. We have forgotten where we come from. Now its every man for himself and screw the “value proposition”. As an older guy I am astounded that no one is objecting to our self created downfall. Well, I object. In business school we learned that ignoring any of your stakeholders was mismanagement. I am afraid we are in a mismanagement revolution. We have seen the enemy and he is US!

 

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on September 19, 2013

Not all biofuels are the same, Fischer-Tropsch syntheitic fuels should be distinguished from ethanol and distinguished again from vegetable oil derived biodiesels.  Food (biodiesel) and alcohol (ethanol) both fail to scale as resources for large volume fuel requirements.  FT fuels derived from coal gasification on the other hand have a long track record of high volume production.  The same gasification processes can be utilized for biomass, algae and waste or natural gas allowing all of the resouces to be comingled.  Among the benefits of FT fuels is that they are ultra-clean with no sulphur, particulates, lead, aromatics or other impurities resulting in dramatically reduced emissions.  The Air Force has successfully tested 50-50 blends of JP-8 with FT derived JP-8 in big bombers.

While I agree with the authors critiques of the various businesses mentioned and the investment climate surrounding them, I would not be so quick to dismiss next gen fuels.  The simple fact is we need fuels to replace petroluem.  We can make all the electricity in the world but no one is suggesting that we can use batteries to power the Air Force, big ships or heavy equipment, for them we need high quality fuel.

Personally I think that CH4 is the way to go.  Methane is abundant, methane is renewable and methane is a high performance fuel that can power heavy equipment and be readily converted into ultra clean jet fuel for those who need liquids.

I would be interested in learning more about NH3 as a fuel, there is an interesting argument there but I am skeptical, perhaps for no other reason than that I have never heard of anyone using ammonia as a fuel.  I watch the military more than any other organization in trying to discern what really works or not and they have made positive reports about gas to liquids.

Erich J. Knight's picture
Erich J. Knight on September 19, 2013

“There is no magic catalyst”

Maybe not Magic but Cool Planet’s Nano-suctured catalyst allows $1.50/gallon production cost.

Cool Planet had slated their first 10 Million gal/yr commercial Bio-refinery for 2014, on the heels of their 2 million gal/yr pilot scale plant running  in Carrillo, CA. since 2012.

Now we know it’s going to where biomass grows in abundance, Louisiana.

The 10M gallon refinres cost $56 million each, I have not seen any cost numbers for the 400K/gal/yr  distributed refineries, just hints concerning the relatively low capital costs per plant, but “Moore’s Law” will come inplay as they roll them out the factory doors.

Ease of permitting because they don’t need to store fuel on site, biomass comes in and tanker trucks roll out, that’s just 3 trucks/day for a 24/7 operational schedule,
Or, about 2 Fuel Barges per month.
 
Looking down the road, If CoolPlanet Biofuels processed the entire projected US biomass harvest in 2030, estimated at 1.6 Billion Tons,  the yields would be;
120 Billion Gallons of tank ready fuel ,(The US uses 150 Billion gallons/year), and 0.3 Billion Tons of Biochar

It would require just 12,000 distributed refineries. (each producing 10 Mgal/yr)

According to Dr Hansen’s new formula for assessing national CO2 liabilities, The US CO2 reduction fraction is;
26.3 PPM = 207Gt CO2,  207 GtCo2 = 56 GtC,

The avoided Fossil carbon from 120 Billion gallons of Bio-Gasoline = -0.324 GtC/yr + -0.3 Gt Char = -0.624 GtC/yr
A significant draw-down & avoidance without even accounting for the out year increases of NPP, lower fertilizer use & avoided CH4 & N2O emissions .

 
 
I think the Jewel in CP’s crown will be these small decentralized, sub-scale plants;

“Cool Planet is on its third generation design now, and expects to have its first mass producible plant open in the September period, producing what it calls 400,000 gallon per year sub-scale systems, and is expecting a fourth generation design by Spring 2013.

The complete Cool Planet story. What is it? Why transformational? What are the next steps?
http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2013/08/25/cool-planet-to-invest-168m-in-louisiana-stealthy-biotechnology-heads-for-scale/

CP has garnered a total of $60 Million of invests from GE, Google, BP  Conoco, Their Gasoline EPA approved.

Pretty Cool,

Erich

Rob Dekker's picture
Rob Dekker on September 20, 2013

Robert,

What do you think of the recent plans by tar-sand developers in Alberta to start a pilot plant for carbon sequestration using algae :

http://ens-newswire.com/2013/08/09/canada-funds-algal-biorefinery-to-convert-tar-sands-emissions/

Since they are using electricity (LEDs) to provide the light for the algae, is this project ever going to be net carbon neutral, let alone sequester carbon ?

Or is it just a PR stunt to pretend Canada is working on reducing CO2 emissions, so they please Obama to approve the Keystone XL ?

Robert Rapier's picture
Robert Rapier on September 20, 2013

Sounds like a PR stunt. 

Wilmot McCutchen's picture
Wilmot McCutchen on September 20, 2013

This Sep 2013 audit by the DOE’s inspector general gives some clues why biorefining has been a flop.  Even when DOE has systems in place for evaluating technical merit, adverse findings are disregarded.  Doomed biofuels projects get funded anyway.  Crony capitalism cost-sharing projects are not working because the cost-sharing requirement insures that smart but small companies are excluded and big but dumb companies get the government money — regardless of technical merit. $603 million of the $929 million budget for biofuels has been spent with no success.  Out of the 15 projects, only 3 survive, and none are at commercial scale. 

Burning things for pyrolysis is well-known (e.g. delayed coker).  Not disruptive, not a Black Swan, not even innovative.  And yet $2 billion in market capitalization ….  http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/IG-0893.pdf

Robert Rapier's picture
Robert Rapier on September 20, 2013

Even when DOE has systems in place for evaluating technical merit, adverse findings are disregarded.”

Yes, I think I am going to write about this audit in next week’s column.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on September 20, 2013

Fossil methane is definitely the low-cost leader today; nothing can touch it in the US, including bio-methane.  Bio-methane has many enthusiasts because it can be made from waste fairly easily on a small scale.  But like all bio-fuels, the Earth’s resources are severely limited.  The Earth’s really huge sustainable energy sources are solar, wind, and nuclear.

As far as practicality, changing from gasoline to natural gas power for transportation requires about the same societal investment as going to ammonia,  Ammonia is as good or better a fuel than methane, in all ways except cost and toxicity.  Ammonia is more energy dense for vehicle use, more transportable at wholesale scale, and more storable at industrial scale.

But most of all, ammonia is a more scalable fuel compared to other non-fossil or CO2-neutral choices.  We can literally make as much as we want.  Dispatchable ammonia synthesis also completely solves the intermittancy (and seasonable variability) problem when solar and wind are used for electricity.

Rob Dekker's picture
Rob Dekker on September 21, 2013

Thank you. And again this $ 35 million tar-sands PR project is funded mostly by the Canadian tax payers.

Kind of sounds like a small version of the $ 1 billion Canadian tax-payer subsidy that tar-sand developers receive for the Quest project :

 

http://business.financialpost.com/2012/09/05/shell-to-build-carbon-capture-project-for-oil-sands-emissions/

 

This sort of PR stunts, at the expense of the Canadian tax payer, are now called “environmental management.” by tar sand developers like Shell.

Robert, when will you do a piece on this form of corporate welfare ?

Steve Frazer's picture
Steve Frazer on October 10, 2013

Robert, a well educated and well respected Chem Eng., is again writing for the general public.  Unfortunately, he, along with most of the authors of such articles, bundle “biofuels” together such that the reader after cruising through their words of wisdom still has little insight or understanding of the radical differences – pro or con – between the various biofuel sources.  This actually makes his article totally moot.

Let’s break it down:

Ethanol from any feedstock requires a 100% volume – high energy distillation process, is an incredibly caustic and toxic fuel, generates high volumes of undesirable emissions, the common feedstock (corn, switchgrass, …) offer little CO2 processing, the fuel demonstrates an extreme evaporation rate, has a relatively low BTU density, is not now, nor will likely become cost viable even against petroleum in the near future.  Yet, corn for ethanol production now occupies 48 million acres of prime U.S. farmland.  Ethanol as we know it today should simply be discarded as a transportation fuel if it wasn’t such a great and immediate excuse for why the U.S. is no longer shipping our historic 67% of total grain production to feed the populations of northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, …  Seriously, wars can cost $B’s per day, so not feeding a few hundred million people as the U.S. has been doing for decades, gives these semi-hostile nations something else to focus on – pending starvation – so they over-throw their own governments instead.  I am OK with this strategy – especially since U.S. farmers are benefiting.

Biodiesel from 1st generation feedstock (soybeans, canola, safflower, …) offers less than 100 gallons per acre of fuel – end of discussion – end of consideration.

Synthetic gasoline and synthetic diesel processing are x2-x4 the cost of biodiesel from 2nd generation feedstock for biodiesel and are not likely to come down in price significantly over the next decade. New technologies may make this solution economically viable at some point in the future.

Biodiesel from 2nd generation feedstock (jatropha and yellowhorn) offers between 400-1,400 gallons per acre per year, has a high BTU density – just under petroleum diesel, 9% distillation by volume, is rated non-toxic (1/10th as toxic as table salt), processes an amazing amount of CO2 to the point of rendering 2nd gen biodiesel from yellowhorn CO2 negative, has an extremely low evaporation rate, is cost effective today at $42 barrel equiv. against petroleum, contributes to dedesertification, provides human and animal foodstock and oils and provides biomass for baseload energy generation via the orchard clippings (automated harvesting and trimming).  Considering current options and technologies, biodiesel from 2nd generation, high yield feedstock is our only environmentally friendly, economically viable, large scale and totally sustainable solution for petroleum replacement. The fact that it is a drop-in fuel saves literally $T’s in infrastructure expenditures.  There are 28M acres of yellowhorn orchards actively being planted in the U.S. today and the projected 200M acres of yellowhorn trees by 2020 worldwide will generate almost half of the world’s 2009 petroleum production volume.


To take advantage of the benefits of 2nd generation feedstock sourced biodiesel, the U.S. must follow the migration of the rest of the industrialized nations and migrate to a diesel powered light fleet ASAP.  Join the Migration – etcgreen.com  U.S. Migration

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