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On August 25, 2016, researchers at the University of Michigan, led by research professor John M. DeCicco, Ph.D., published "Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use," a study examining the impact of biofuel production on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The study, funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute, examined USDA crop-production data and determined that the increasing use of biofuels has resulted in a net increase of CO2 emissions, with only 37 percent of CO2 emissions from biofuel combustion offset by the increased CO2 uptake from biofuel crops. Biofuels have generally been assumed to be inherently carbon neutral because the CO2 released by combustion is equal to the CO2 that was originally pulled from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. In this study, Dr. DeCicco did not assume that biofuels were carbon neutral, going through crop, biofuel, and fossil fuel production data, as well as vehicle emissions, to determine that biofuels produce more CO2 emissions than gasoline.

MichBio, Michigan's biosciences industry association, issued a strong condemnation of the study, calling it "flawed" and based on inappropriate modeling assumptions. The lifecycle analysis used by Dr. DeCicco provides a carbon storage credit to fossil fuels from existing forests and agriculture that MichBio argues is wholly inappropriate due to the lack of an economic relationship between the petroleum industry and agriculture and forestry. MichBio concedes that biofuels are not carbon neutral, but states that the issue is more complex than Dr. DeCicco implies: "No competent life cycle assessment assumes that biofuels are carbon neutral, only that the actual carbon content of the fuels came from the atmosphere in the first place and returns to the atmosphere when it is combusted. That much is simple chemistry, and without argument. For the rest of the biofuel life cycle, the question of carbon neutrality is very much a research question, not a decided issue as DeCicco would have one believe." MichBio goes on to reference an independently funded study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory that showed "conventional biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent over their lifecycle, while advanced biofuels can reduce emissions by 100 percent or more over conventional gasoline."


 

On August 11, 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) report. The report outlined expectations for regular gasoline to average a retail price of $2.41 for all of 2015, with prices for the fourth quarter of 2015 averaging $2.11. Consistently low gasoline prices, in addition to the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volumes that were announced on May 29, 2015, have resulted in the EIA forecasting that ethanol consumption will average about 900,000 b/d in 2015 and 2016, up from 878,000 b/d in 2014. Ethanol production is expected to remain near current levels of 935,000 b/d through 2015 and 2016. EIA found that solar and wind energy capacity is continuing to grow, with over half of electricity-generating units added online in the U.S. in 2015 utilizing renewable sources, mainly wind and solar.


 

On August 12, 2014, Virent announced that it has received fuel registration from EPA for its BioForm® gasoline in blends up to 45 percent. According to the company's press release, this registration means that the BioForm® gasoline may now be used in on-highway motor vehicles. The EPA testing work for the registration was funded by Virent's partner Royal Dutch Shell.


Virent's CEO Lee Edwards remarked in the company's press release on the announcement that "[s]ecuring EPA registration of our BioForm® Gasoline is further confirmation of Virent's high quality drop-in fuel and is another step towards commercializing our technology to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biobased feedstocks."


A copy of Virent's press release is available online.