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Global biofuels production up 17% in 2010 to hit all-time high of 105 billion liters

31 August 2011

World ethanol and biodiesel production, 1975-2010. Source: Worldwatch Institute. Click to enlarge.

Global production of biofuels increased 17% in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters (28 billion gallons US), up from 90 billion liters (24 billion gallons US) in 2009. High oil prices, a global economic rebound, and new laws and mandates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States, among other countries, are all factors behind the surge in production, according to research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program for the website Vital Signs Online.

Biofuels provided 2.7% of all global fuel for road transportation—an increase from 2% in 2009, according to the report. The two biofuel alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation largely consist of ethanol and biodiesel. The world produced 86 billion liters (23 billion gallons US) of ethanol in 2010, 18% more than in 2009. World biodiesel production rose to 19 billion liters (5 billion gallons US) in 2010, a 12% increase from 2009.

The United States and Brazil remain the two largest producers of ethanol. In 2010, the United States generated 49 billion liters (13 billion gallons US), or 57% of global output, and Brazil produced 28 billion liters (7 billion gallons US), or 33% of the total. Corn is the primary feedstock for US ethanol, and sugarcane is the dominant source of ethanol in Brazil.

In the United States, the record production of biofuels is attributed in part to high oil prices, which encouraged several large fuel companies, including Sunoco, Valero, Flint Hills, and Murphy Oil, to enter the ethanol industry.

—Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program

High oil prices were also a factor in Brazil, where every third car-owner drives a flex-fuel vehicle that can run on either fossil or bio-based fuels.

Although the US and Brazil are the world leaders in ethanol, the largest producer of biodiesel is the European Union, which generated 53% of all biodiesel in 2010, said Ochs. However, he noted, some European countries may switch from biodiesel to ethanol because a recent report from the European Commission states that ethanol crops have a higher energy content than biodiesel crops, making them more efficient sources of fuel.

Vital Signs authors Sam Shrank, a Worldwatch MAP Sustainable Energy Fellow, and Farhad Farahmand, a Climate and Energy research intern, also explored how new mandates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and China have altered the biofuel industries in these countries.

In Argentina, the biodiesel industry grew not only because of favorable conditions for growing soybeans, but also in response to a new B7 blending mandate, which requires the fuel to be 7% biodiesel and 93% diesel. Accordingly, biodiesel producers in Argentina are investing heavily in facilities to increase production.

In the United States, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the decision to dramatically lower the country’s production target for cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel that is made from woody plants or crop waste and that can be converted to ethanol much more efficiently than conventional ethanol, resulting in lower associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA’s target reduction reflects the technical challenges and high costs of commercializing so-called second-generation biofuels. Instead of the 950 million liters required initially under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the final target will be a much smaller 25 million liters.

—Sam Shrank

Proposed legislation in the US Senate would cut current ethanol production subsidies while maintaining tax credits for related infrastructure such as refilling stations. If supports such as subsidies and tariffs are removed in the United States, sugarcane ethanol from Brazil will likely become more prevalent, the report noted. Although sugarcane ethanol has the benefit of being cheaper and more efficient to produce, there are concerns that increased production will speed deforestation in Brazil as more land is cleared for feedstock cultivation.

Further highlights from the study:

  • Due to unsteady ethanol production in Brazil in 2010, the United States became a net exporter of the fuel for the first time, sending a record 1.3 billion liters abroad, a 300% increase over 2009.

  • Sugarcane ethanol supplies 41.5% of the energy (48% of the volume) for light-duty transportation fuels in Brazil.

  • Asia produced 12% of the world’s biodiesel in 2010, a 20%t increase from 2009, mostly using palm oil feedstock in Indonesia and Thailand.

  • Virtually all of the 1.5 billion liters of Argentina’s biodiesel exports, representing 71% of total production, went to Europe.

  • Canada has national mandates for the production of E5 (5% ethanol and 95% gasoline) and B2 (2% ethanol and 98% gasoline), and four Canadian provinces have individual mandates up to E8.5.

  • In the United States, eliminating the $0.54 per gallon import tariff and $0.45 per gallon blenders’ credit would reduce the ethanol industry’s profits by 7% and its margins by 20% , according to the University of Missouri’'s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

  • Brazil plans to build 103 new sugarcane mills by 2019, increasing production capacity by 66%.

The new Vital Signs Online article highlights both the increases in global production of biofuels and the factors behind this growth. It presents the latest facts and figures on the major biofuels producers and outlines new laws and mandates that will affect production of the fuels.

August 31, 2011 in Biodiesel, Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)


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Growing biomass removes significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Using that biomass in a large and global biofuels industry in combination with CO2 capture and underground storage is therefore the only realistic method for dealing effectively with global warming. There are no other methods for importantly reducing the atmospheric CO2 content and therefore it may be our only hope to prevent a future mass extinction event that is caused by global warming as a result of fossil fuel burning.

What is needed is an international payment mechanism that pays biofuels refineries for capturing and storing CO2 that can be proven to be sourced from the atmosphere. CO2 capture and storage from fossil fuel burning should off cause not be rewarded as it does not prevent global warming because it does not reduce the content of CO2 in the atmosphere. It only reduces the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. A system that pays a 100 USD for each ton of atmospheric CO2 captured and stored underground is probably enough to make CO2 capture and storage a good business for the biofuels industry. The expenses for such a system should be distributed among all nations in accordance to how much CO2 they have emitted into the atmosphere during their industrialization. That will also give an incentive to reduce current and new emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere as that will reduce future payments for removal of atmospheric CO2.


You may be right, but the fact remains that biofuels made 3% of vehicle fuels. We could save 25% by driving more fuel efficient vehicles. We could likely save another 5-10% by installing substantial HOV lanes. We could likely save another 5-10% by expanding the quality and quantity of mass transit. Eliminate subsidies for suburbification and improve urban area quality of life metrics, and watch as more folks move to cities, cutting fuel use another 5-10%.

Biofuels may be a part of the solution, but a much bigger part is to simply use less fuel.


You are right. What is most urgent right now is to reduce the annual CO2 additions to the atmosphere. In 2008 almost 30 billion tons of CO2 were released to the atmosphere and that number is increasing (see link below). However, if we establish an international system now that initially can do carbon capture and storage for about 100 USD per ton and agree on a finance mechanism that is based on how much each nation has contributed to the CO2 pollution historically then it will have an enormous effect on the incentive to reduce current CO2 emissions as each nation will know that they will be held accountable at a later point in time and be liable for paying for an equal amount of CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

The CO2 removal industry must be established now because it takes time to scale up and to develop technology that can bring down the cost of removing the atmospheric CO2. After all at 100 USD per ton of CO2 a complete removal of 30 billion tons will cost 3000 billion USD. That is comparable to the total annual turnover in the global oil industry or about 4% of the global GDP (see link below).

We also need more volume in the global biofuels industry in order to increase its potential for atmospheric CO2 removal to a level where it can make a real difference. The data above shows that the global biofuels industry produced 28 billion gallons in 2010. That is equal to 1.9 million barrels of fuel per day. In order to get an industry volume needed to remove billions of tons of CO2 per year we need a biofuels industry that is 10 times larger or one that produces about 20 million barrels of fuel per day. That is doable on a global scale as it would require about 4 billion tons of dry biomass per year. However, a lot of development and investments are needed before that is going to happen.

Global CO2 emissions: 30 billion tons

Global GDP: 75 trillion USD.

CO2 capture from ethanol refinery

Biomass production potential billion ton report

Nice trend, but <1B barrels biofuel vs 38B oil annual(top 10 countries only

It will take >10% for biofuels to have sustained impact.

I fully agree with stormy.. The problem must be solved at the source, i.e. reduce or eliminate liquid fuel consumption.

North American bio-fuels represent about one months of US transport supplies But it is getting to be an industry large enough that applies price pressure to the Oil supply and prices.

Unfortunately the Oil Sheiks and Oil Commissars who control Nationalized Oil companies, are ultra greedy and unlike normal capitalists, don't believe they will be in power long, so try to extort as much as possible, while they can. They seem to have no conception of building a business, or husbanding resources, or cultivating customers. They have been distorting the world's commerce for forty years. But that era is most likely ending.

There is a complete assumption error by a poster here, who somehow assumes that the land would lie barren if not used to grow bio fuels stocks. Wrong. Flora would still grow and prosper and suck CO2 from the Air in any case.

The final nail may have been driven into the mid 20th century qualitative CAGW theory by this weeks peer-reviewed and now published paper in Nature, that reports of the first results of the CERN Cloud experiment. The results reveal that Dr. Henrik Svensmark's theory of the mid 90s about cloud formation being created in large part by cosmic ray nucleation and modulated by the solar magnetic field and solar wind is true with all the power to explaining all of the warming the Warmists have proffered for GHGs and and CO2.

Other experiments have increasingly calibrated the CO2 response as only capable of altering the temperature by a tenth of a degree per CO2 doubling.

However, he noted, some European countries may switch from biodiesel to ethanol because a recent report from the European Commission states that ethanol crops have a higher energy content than biodiesel crops, making them more efficient sources of fuel.

I'd really like to see this report 'cause AFAIK biodiesel has an energy content of 130,000 BTU/gal and ethanol only has an energy content of 76,000 BTU. What's more, from what I've heard, it takes more energy to produce ethanol. The ERoEI of biodiesel is 3.2 (or better if you skip some procesing and use SVO/PPO - pure plant oil) but the ERoEI for ethanol is only 1.34.

The crops have a higher energy content - not the fuel.

(Needless to say that a wind farm could produce much more fuel (e.g. hydrogen or methane) than any crop per area. And a PV system on a parking roof can easily power an electric car. On the other hand: Crops on a parking roof could not even power a moped.)

ExDemo is referring to this study;

However, as you'll hear in this youtube;
Dr. Kirkby’s take — not so much.

"From the Editor’s summary in Nature:
Even with the large enhancements in rate caused by ammonia and ions, they conclude that atmospheric concentrations of ammonia and sulphuric acid are insufficient to account for observed boundary layer nucleation.

There are more questions to answer.
If cosmic rays have an effect on climate, we should expect that, given the unequivocal warming of the last 40 years, there should be a corresponding trend in cosmic rays. And we don’t see one."

"Since we are in an extended solar minimum, that recent work suggests may get even deeper and longer, the cosmic ray idea would predict —

low solar activity –>

lower solar magnetic fields –>

more influx of cosmic rays –>

more ionizing of atmosphere –>

more cloud nuclei –>

more clouds –>

greater reflectivity –>

lower temps for the last few years, and more cooling to come.

There’s a problem with this idea. We are not observing such a cooling."

ai-vin... eventually, liquid fuels may not have that much importance. We will use other sustainable cleaner energy sources.

Harvey...yeah I know, and I've already said so;

So sad, ai vin. A beautiful anti-ACC theory slain by ugly facts.

Two crocodile tears for it, and on to the next thing.

Sorry ai_vin,

No matter how the Warmist propaganda machinery try to subvert the Svensmark ideas, it is now quantitatively and qualitatively proven after some 15 year of Warmist interference, that in a highly active solar environment such as occurred from 1978 to 1995, the suns magnetic fields and solar wind divert the galactic cosmic ray flux and reduce it a bit. When reduced, it provides fewer nucleation sites for water vapor to formulate clouds. That leaves more area free to receive direct sunlight which warms the Earth. Since 1995 the unusually high solar output has been reduced, and with it the solar magnetic fields and solar wind, which allows more cosmic ray flux to enter the atmosphere and form clouds.

Cloud tops are very effective mirrors for sunlight reflecting more energy to space and away from Earth, cooling it. A cloud fluctuation of only 1%-2% is able to explain ALL the observed fluctuations in Earth temperatures and is much more powerful an effect than variable CO2 GHGs,which is suggested as attributable to Man.

That destroys the fundamental thesis of the IPCC Reports I to IV that only very strong GHG effects, only now being measured and quantified, has the power to alter the climate a little bit. It has take 60 years to quantify the qualitative assertions of the GHG qualitative model. But evidence is accumulating that GHGs can alter the temperature by a tenth of a single degree at most and not several degrees postulated but unproven, by the Warmist pseudo-scientists.

Even the most casual observer will admit that standing in direct sunlight is more intense than standing in the shade. Even shade produced by an occluding passing cloud.

All warmists will finally have to admit this about so called global warming.

"Its the Sun, stupid!"

ExDemo, you forget the inconvenient fact that there's been no clear trend in either the solar cycle or cosmic-ray flux over the last 50 years. Even if the cloud theory is true, it's (a) not the whole story, and (b) clearly not going to explain a trend that develops while cosmic rays stay more or less the same.

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