By 2020, a new report says, biofuels could replace 50 percent of EU gasoline, but that would require 100 new refineries per year. And in this scenario, it estimates, the biofuels industry could be worth about $40 billion.
The Bloomberg New Energy Finance study says that just using the waste biomass that's currently being generated, could go toward replacing 60 percent of liquid fuels.
These are all best-case scenarios, of course. The study looks at alternate scenarios for second-generation biofuel technology—cellulosic bio-ethanol—including one with “business as usual.” Under an aggressive approach, the biofuels industry in Europe could be worth about $40 billion by 2020, while under a more conservative approach it could see revenues of about $650 million.
Farmers would also have an extra revenue source. An expert in the industry mentioned government incentives for collecting biomass. In the U.S., there's a mandate to consume a certain amount of cellulosic ethanol each year—36 billion gallons in 2022, with 16 billion (eleven percent of U.S. fuel demand) of that being next-generation biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.
And here in the U.S., where most gasoline is now actually 10 percent ethanol, or E10, it's a hot-button political issue. Automakers say that no matter what the source, adding more ethanol to gasoline (above that ten-percent mark) is bad
. Meanwhile, a recent test of older cars—by a pro-ethanol group
, the Renewable Fuels Association—found that there's only minimal risk to those vehicles, and there's a new push toware E12 or E15. There's the issue of whether the putting such an emphasis on biofuels could limit farmland used for food production—and drive food prices up.
With no change in land use, as this expert is suggesting, would you stand behind more ethanol content in gasoline, if it were to increase our energy independence? And should the government back this or other energy sources? Let us know what you think.