The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute

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The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
Spring 2011

                          Inaugural Issue

The World
    is Waiting
          Mapping Global
          Moving Closer
          to the Pump
          Fuels for the Future


          Pamela Ronald In the Lab
          Brazil’s Native Son
          The Driving Force
          Behind GREET
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
From Bio...
ENERGY CANE             What is it? The same species as sugarcane, but bred to produce large amounts
                        of fiber, rather than sugar. The potential advantages are promising: more energy per

A Cane by Any Other     acre than sugarcane, and fiber that can be stored in the field and at the factory longer
                        than sugar.
Name Isn’t, Actually,   Where does it grow? Where other crops might struggle. The steamy and
as Sweet                sandy soils of the southern United States aren’t particularly productive, and energy
                        cane might be an excellent crop on land that is currently abandoned or minimally
                        used for pasture.

                        Why does it matter? Growing the best biofuel feedstock—with minimal
                        inputs like irrigated water or additional fertilizer—for a given site will ensure both
                        economic and environmental viability.

                        Who is working on it? University and government research centers focusing
                        on biofuel crops for the southern United States, and BP Biofuels North America at
                        its operations in Jennings, LA, and Highlands, FL.
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
CONTENTS              1                                                                           SPRING 2011

          Spring 2011 Vol. 1.1
          Bioenergy Connection: A Publication of the Energy Biosciences Institute

          DEPARTMENTS                                                 FEATURES

          3       From the Executive Editor
                  Chris Somerville on Moving the                      18 The Issue Q/A
                                                                         Modeling Biofuel Impacts: The meaning
                  Conversation Forward                                        of life(cycle) analysis
                                                                      GREET, a tool with humble beginnings, has emerged

          4       Editorial
                  Advisory Board
                                                                      as the gold standard for assessing greenhouse gas
                                                                      emissions from transportation fuels. A conversation
                                                                      with its developer, Argonne Lab’s Michael Wang.

          5       Contributors                                        By Karen Holtermann

22        6       Commentary
                  John H. Perkins on Energy, Education,               22 InImproving
                                                                             the Lab
                                                                                     Rice for Food and Grasses for
                  and Democracy
                                                                      Her husband is an organic farmer. She grows Miscan-
                                                                      thus in their backyard. Pamela Ronald talks about her
          THE COVER PACKAGE                                           life, her passions, and her work as vice president for
                                                                      feedstocks at JBEI.
                                                                      By Michelle Locke

          8       Fuels for the Future: From cellulosic to
                  drop-in, the toolbox is expanding
          Driven by global demand, biofuels research and tech-        25 Next Gen
                                                                         A Native Son Commits to Brazil’s Future
          nology are picking up speed. From new approaches to
                                                                      Amancio Souza passed up a love of surfing and stint
          cellulosic biofuels to the quest for “drop-in” fuels that
                                                                      in beekeeping to help his native country move biofuels
          can mimic petroleum-based standbys, the toolbox is
                                                                      into the future.
          expanding like never before.
                                                                      By Rick Malaspina
          By Erik Vance

          11      Moving Toward a Biofuels Future
          Across the globe, governments are making—and
                                                                      27 Careers
                                                                         Bioenergy Careers: Why being flexible
                                                                              and dedicated matter
          meeting—commitments to clean, renewable trans-
          portation fuels. A look at the countries, their biofuels    An industry is being born and job growth in next-
          mandates, and who is setting the stage for the future.      generation biofuels is on the rise.

          By Marie Felde                                              By Abby Cohn

                                                                      THE CONNECTION
          15 The Path to Commercialization…Are We
             There Yet?
          In the four years since Congress set a national goal        Inside the cover pages
          of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, only      From Bio…
          corn ethanol production is on track. Cellulosic bio-        Energy Cane: A cane by any other name isn’t,
          fuels, renewable diesel, and other advanced fuels have      actually, as sweet
     15   a steep climb ahead. What will it take for cellulosic
          fuel to meet its goal?                                      To Fuel…
          By Heather Youngs                                           Conspicuous Consumption: New yeast strain a
                                                                      breakthrough in biofuel production

          The Briefing Special Insert
          Sustainability: What it is and why it matters to bioenergy’s future
          A comprehensive guide to understanding what’s at stake, including key issues and big questions, in the effort to
          define sustainable development for bioenergy.
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                                 2

                                                         ABOuT THE EBI
                                                         The Energy Biosciences Institute is a partnership of the University of
                                                         California, Berkeley; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
                                                         Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and BP. In its quest to help the

    STAFF                                                world transition from fossil fuels to a balanced portfolio of responsible,
                                                         renewable energy sources, EBI researchers and scholars explore the ap-
    ExEcutiVE Editor                                     plication of advanced knowledge of biological processes, materials, and
    Chris Somerville                                     mechanisms to the energy sector. More than 300 EBI researchers are
                                                         engaged in five main areas: feedstock development, biomass depolymer-
    Editor                                               ization, biofuels production, microbiology of fossil fuel reserves, and the
    Marie Felde                                          economic, social and environmental dimensions of cellulosic biofuels
                                                         development. To learn about recent EBI research and scholarship visit the
    Art dirEctor
                                                         EBI website at
    Haley Ahlers

    Nicholas Vasi
    Kathryn Coulter                                      EDITOR’s NOTE
    Gabriel Horton
                                                         As you read the articles in this inaugural issue a common element emerges:
    ASSociAtE EditorS                                    people working in the bioenergy field are dedicated to creating a better
    Melissa Edwards                                      future for our planet. How and when that will happen is an open question.
    Ron Kolb                                             Why it must is not, as we were reminded in delightful fashion as the maga-
                                                         zine was going to press. Nathan Joseph Heaton was born to Emily Heaton
    contributing EditorS
                                                         (see, Big Grasses, Bigger Goal, page 26) as the New Year approached and
    Susan Jenkins
                                                         Madison Marie Ahlers arrived to the delight her mother, and our art direc-
    Caroline Taylor
                                                         tor, Haley Ahlers, as 2011 took hold. Two very good reasons to keep working
    Heather Youngs
                                                         on that elusive goal.
    buSinESS MAnAgEr
    Mark Shaw

    Bioenergy Connection is published two times per
    year by the Energy Biosciences Institute at the
    University of California, Berkeley and the
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
    To request a copy or to change your address please

    Bioenergy Connection is printed on recycled paper
    with soy ink.

The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE         3                                                    SPRING 2011

                                                    MOVING THE
One of the most difficult challenges of this century will be finding        porary research, emerging policies, and trends in the general field of
ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while at the same time        energy biosciences.
providing improved quality of life for an expanding human popula-
tion and preserving biodiversity. While we cannot know the future,          Our goal is to introduce the questions that drive current research, to
it is not difficult to predict that the intersection of major trends such   spotlight the people who are moving the field forward, and to provide
as depletion of petroleum reserves, expanding population, and cli-          explanations to a range of issues in terms that will broaden knowl-
mate change will be accompanied by many ideological or political            edge and understanding by specialists and non-specialists alike.
conflicts in which science and engineering will be called upon to
                                                                            Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of meaningful discourse so we
support arguments for or against various proposed solutions.
                                                                            intend to present conflicting ideas where there are evidence-based
Indeed, important aspects of this vital public dialog have been un-         arguments propelling divergent conclusions. Our long-term am-
derway for some time and are likely to grow increasingly complex as         bition is to present a global perspective but we believe that an ini-
new information and new perspectives are brought to the discussion.         tial focus on a few of the most active areas of the world represents
In the relatively young field of energy biosciences, the past several       enough of a challenge for a new magazine. We are grateful to the
years have witnessed vigorous debate about issues such as the indi-         distinguished members of our editorial advisory board for their as-
rect land use consequences of biofuels and the effects of biofuels on       sistance in establishing the scope and advising on the content of the
food security.                                                              magazine.

Although these and other issues can be converted to convenient              Finally, while we will draw from the expertise of the EBI team and
sound bites or headlines that advance one or another point of view,         our academic and industry colleagues here and abroad, we hope to
it is apparent that important facts and context may get lost in pas-        solicit advice from the readership of the magazine about what topics
sionate but sometimes incomplete or oversimplified discourse. As            would be most useful in moving the conversation forward. We wel-
informed participants in the academic side of the bioenergy field, my       come your feedback on this, our inaugural issue, and encourage you
colleagues and I at the Energy Biosciences Institute are frequently         to share your thoughts and suggestions for future issues. We can be
approached by individuals from government, the media, educational           reached at and through a web-
institutions, and industry seeking to understand at a deeper level the      site that will be launched soon to complement the printed version of
complex issues facing our new field. We welcome these inquiries and         the magazine.
are always grateful for the opportunity to provide analysis and un-
derstanding when we can and to learn from the issues raised and the
dialog that ensues.
                                                                            Chris Somerville
In response, we have launched Bioenergy Connection in the hope
that this new magazine can become a useful summary of contem-               Executive Editor and Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                                ADVISORY BOARD          4

                          JAMiE cAtE is an associ-           the behavior of the planet’s water and carbon cycles,     biofuels at the Energy Biosciences Institute. She
                            ate professor of chemistry,      and the interactions between ecosystems and the           serves on the Environmental Economics Advisory
                            and of biochemistry and          atmosphere. Among many honors, in 1997 President          Committee of the Science Advisory Board of the
                            molecular biology at the         Clinton presented him the Presidential Early Career       U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She holds
                            University of California,        Award for Scientists and Engineers.                       editorial positions at several environmental and
   Berkeley. He is also a faculty scientist at Lawrence                                                                agricultural economics journals.
   Berkeley National Laboratory and a Sloan Fellow. As
   a researcher with the Energy Biosciences Institute,
                                                             JoSé goldEMbErg has had a distinguished
   Cate and his team are developing catalytic strate-
                                                             academic and public service career. He is presently                              StEVE long is the Ed-
   gies to make cellulose a viable source of renewable
                                                                                     professor emeritus of the                                 ward William and Jane Marr
                                                                                     University of São Paulo. He                               Gutgsell Endowed Professor
                                                                                     was Brazil’s Secretary of State                           in the Departments of Crop
                                                                                     for Science and Technology                                Sciences and Plant Biology at
   Jody EndrES is an attorney and the senior                                         and its Minister of State for     the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He
                          regulatory associate with the      Education. He has also served as the president of         is one of the 20 most cited authors of scientific pa-
                          Energy Biosciences Institute       the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of          pers on global climate change and has held advisory
                          at the University of Illinois at   Science and president of the energy company of the        roles with the U.N., the European Union, the United
                          Urbana-Champaign, where            State of São Paulo. In 2007, Time magazine honored        Kingdom, the U.S. Congress and the White House.
                          her research focuses on            him as one of its “Heroes of the Environment.” He         He is founding and chief editor of Global Change
   emerging sustainability standards for energy bio-         has also received the Blue Planet award (Japan) and       Biology and GCB—Bioenergy. He is deputy director
   mass. She has published in some of the nation’s top       the Trieste Science Prize of the Third World Acad-        of the Energy Biosciences Institute.
   environmental law journals and teaches environ-           emy of Sciences.
   mental law at the university. She chairs the Council
   for Sustainable Biomass Production’s Field Testing
                                                                                                                       ruth Scotti is the biofuels regulatory affairs
   Task Force, and the Environmental Subcommittee of
                                                             JAy KEASling is the chief executive officer               director for BP Biofuels where she constructs
   the Leonardo Academy’s ANSI standard develop-
                                                                                     of the U.S. Department of         advocacy strategy and company advocacy positions
   ment for sustainable agriculture.
                                                                                     Energy’s Joint BioEnergy In-      for BP’s biofuels business. She is also a member of
                                                                                     stitute. He is also the associ-   the Energy Biosciences Institute. Prior to working
                                                                                     ate director for biosciences at   in biofuels, she worked in strategy with BP’s fuels
   EVAn h. dEluciA is the G. William Arends                                          Lawrence Berkeley National        marketing division and at GE Energy in its wind
                          Professor of Biology at the        Laboratory and the Hubbard Howe Distinguished             operations group.
                          University of Illinois at Ur-      Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the Uni-
                          bana-Champaign, where he           versity of California, Berkeley. He is internationally
                          is the director of the School      recognized as a world leader in synthetic biology.
                                                                                                                                               chriS SoMErVillE,
                          of Integrative Biology. At the     His laboratory has engineered bacteria and yeast
                                                                                                                                               director of the Energy
   Energy Biosciences Institute his research includes        to produce a precursor to the anti-malarial drug
                                                                                                                                               Biosciences Institute, is the
   investigating the ecological consequences of deploy-      artemisinin and advanced biofuels, among other
                                                                                                                                               Philomathia Professor of
   ing biofuel crops on the landscape. He has advised        successes.
                                                                                                                                               Alternative Energy at the
   members of Congress and the National Academy of
                                                                                                                       University of California, Berkeley. He is a biochem-
   Sciences. He serves on the editorial boards of
                                                                                                                       ist who has published more than 200 research pa-
   Oecologia and Global Change Biology—Bioenergy.
                                                             MAdhu KhAnnA is a professor in the Depart-                pers on a wide range of topics in plant and microbial
                                                                                     ment of Agricultural and          biochemistry and bio-technology. He is a member
                                                                                     Consumer Economics at             of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the
   JonAthAn FolEy is the director of the Insti-                                      the University of Illinois at     Royal Society of London and has numerous awards
   tute on the Environment (IonE) at the University                                  Urbana-Champaign. With            and honorary degrees for his scientific contribu-
   of Minnesota, where he also holds a McKnight                                      expertise in environmental        tions. He is a founder of Mendel Biotechnology and
   Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology,          policy analysis and technology adoption, she leads        LS9 Inc., two biotechnology companies involved in
   Evolution, and Behavior. He and his students have         the research program examining the land use, mar-         biofuels development. He is the executive editor of
   contributed to our understanding of large-scale           ket, and greenhouse gas implications of cellulosic        Bioenergy Connection magazine.
   ecosystem processes, global patterns of land use,
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
CONTRIBUTORS 5                                                                              SPRING 2011

Luuk A.M. vAn der WieLen is the director                                         John h. perkins                                      Abby Cohn (Bio-
                         of BE-Basic, a public-private                          (Energy, Education,                                   energy Careers, page 27)
                         biorenewables R&D consor-                              and Democracy, page                                   is a freelance writer in
                         tium and full professor at                             6) is a senior fellow at                              the San Francisco Bay
                         the Department of Bio-                                 the National Council                                  Area. A former reporter
                         technology at the Delft         for Science and the Environment, a visiting          at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oakland (CA)
University of Technology. He serves on editorial         scholar at the Energy Biosciences Institute,         Tribune, and San Jose Mercury News, she
and advisory boards of several leading international     and an emeritus member of the faculty of The         frequently writes about university-based
scientific journals, as well as the Sustainable Energy   Evergreen State College where he developed           research and innovation.
Cie of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences,        and taught an intensive curriculum of energy
the Advisory Board of KP Sinha Bioenergy Center          studies.
at IIT Kharagpur in India, and the Global Biore-                                                              kAren hoLterMAnn (Modeling Bio-
newables Research Society. He is also an advisor to                                                                                   fuels Impacts, page 18) is
several European and international industries.                                   heAther youngs                                       a California-based writer
                                                                                  (The Path to Commer-                                and editor. She has writ-
                                                                                  cialization… Are We                                 ten often on engineering,
dAvid ZiLberMAn holds the Robinson                                                There Yet? page 15) is a                            technology, and issues
                        Chair in the Department of                                Bioenergy Connection        in higher education. She is the former executive
                        Agriculture and Resource         contributing editor and an analyst at the Energy     director of University Communications at the
                        Economics at the University      Biosciences Institute at the University of Cali-     University of California, Berkeley.
                        of California, Berkeley, where   fornia, Berkeley. She is also an adjunct professor
                        he is also co-director of the    of biochemistry at Michigan Technological
Center for Sustainable Resource Development and a        University. Her research over the past 15 years
                                                                                                              riCk MALAspinA (A Native Son Commits
policy expert with the Energy Biosciences Institute.     has included multiple aspects of plant biomass
                                                                                                                                     to Brazil’s Future, page
His areas of expertise include agricultural and envi-    synthesis and degradation. Her primary role at
                                                                                                                                     25) is a former reporter
ronmental policy, and biotechnology. He has served       the EBI is to assess emerging technology across
                                                                                                                                     and daily newspaper col-
as a consultant to the World Bank, the USDA, the         the entire biofuels value chain from feedstock
                                                                                                                                     umnist. After a second
Food and Agriculture Organization, the Environ-          to fuel. She is also working with the California
                                                                                                                                     career in media relations,
mental Protection Agency, and the Consultative           Council for Science and Technology project-
                                                                                                              he has returned to writing. He is the author of
Group on International Agricultural Research.            ing possible roles for biofuels for “California’s
                                                                                                              a newly released book on the Italian American
                                                         Energy Future” upcoming report.
                                                                                                              community of Oakland, CA, where he lives
                                                                                                              between extended stays in the Charleston area
                                                                                                              of South Carolina.
                                                         erik vAnCe (Fuels for the Future, page 8) is
                                                                                a science writer who has
                                                                                covered topics that span
                                                                                                              JiLLiAn niCkeLL (Fuels for the Future
                                                                                biology to chemistry
                                                                                                              illustration, page 8) is an illustrator, designer,
                                                                                to the world’s hardest
                                                                                                              and art educator who grew up as a farm girl
                                                                                math problem, and often
                                                                                                              in the flatlands of central Illinois and is now
                                                         writes about the world of alternative energy.
                                                                                                              based in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Her work was
                                                         His work has appeared in Discover, Nature, The
                                                                                                              selected to appear in the Society of Illustrators’
                                                         Utne Reader, and The New York Times.
                                                                                                              “Illustrations 52” New York show and annual.

                                                                                 MiCheLLe LoCke
                                                                                 (In the Lab with Pamela
                                                                                 Ronald, page 22) writes
                                                                                 frequently about food
                                                                                 and agricultural issues as
                                                         well as wine and travel. Her work has appeared
                                                         in publications nationwide including USA
                                                         Today and The Washington Post.
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
                                        COMMENTARY6         6


   By John H. Perkins, PhD
   PHOTOGRAPHY: Peg Skorpinski   In the fall, I took nine educators to Ukraine to study the Chernobyl catastrophe of April
                                 1986. We learned of Ukraine’s ongoing work to manage the ruins of the Chernobyl reactor
                                 and its efforts to build a 21st century energy economy. In talking with many Ukrainians,
                                 we were struck with two points: First was the shear multitude of issues connected to energy,
                                 especially technology choice, climate change, water, economics, foreign policy, politics, and
                                 public understanding; and second were the difficulties of reaching consensus. American par-
                                 ticipants saw that looking at Ukraine helped them grasp the magnitude of similar challenges
                                 at home.

                                 In the U.S., climate change from using fossil fuels and insecurity of oil supplies rank high
                                 on the list of public concerns. However, apart from the engineers and scientists who study
                                 energy, not many Americans can speak knowledgeably about our reliance on fossil fuels, the
                                 dangers posed by climate change, or the connections between energy and international con-
                                 flicts. Even many of those who advocate for clean, renewable fuels would be hard-pressed to
                                 explain the steps needed for wind and solar power to replace coal or for plant-based biofuels
                                 to replace gasoline and diesel. Many may not realize that coal, petroleum, gas, and nuclear
                                 power today comprise 95 percent of the U.S. energy supply.
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute
COMMENTARY 7                                                                    SPRING 2011

 “Energy literacy,” in other words, is low, far too low. Only with         Building effective citizen participation requires educational re-
 higher energy literacy can we mobilize the political and economic         sources that don’t currently exist. At the very least, universities and
 will to reduce uses of fossil fuels, a task with staggering challenges.   colleges need two specific kinds of courses: (1) general education
 America’s educational institutions have work to do.                       that explains the current energy economy, its strengths and weak-
                                                                           nesses, the potential and reasons for change, and how democracies
 Some universities and colleges have a good course or two; a few           can design transition pathways; (2) advanced courses and intern-
 even have excellent programs. Effective energy education, however,        ships in relevant fields to prepare students for professional-level
 needs to be far more widespread, reaching more students and more          work with industry, government, and non-profits.
 geographic regions.
                                                                           Universities ultimately need to offer more than general education
 Moving away from fossil fuels requires remodeling the energy              and advanced courses. As many have noted, energy will be a defin-
 infrastructure. If the pathways to new energy practices were self-        ing issue of the 21st century. Commensurate with this challenge,
 evident, then the problems would be easy. Troubles begin when we          educational institutions should see “energy studies” as a field in its
 ask (a) what is to be done? (b) how shall we decide? and (c) which        own right. Students need a better understanding of energy’s mul-
 new investments will provide the best transition to the use of new        tiple dimensions instead of highly fragmented knowledge taught in
 technologies?                                                             different schools and departments that do not communicate well.
                                                                           This unification is essential for building sustainable energy systems.
 Many alternatives to fossil fuels exist. Nuclear power is the next
 largest source of energy after petroleum, coal, and gas in the U.S.       My own teaching experience, reports from other colleagues, plus
 Biofuels, wind, solar, and other renewables provide the smallest          studies from student groups indicate that, if offered, energy educa-
 amount of energy but offer high future potential. The problem             tion will meet with enthusiastic student support. More importantly,
 is that choosing the best new technologies is not so simple. The          it will help to raise energy literacy so that citizens can intelligently
 crux of the problem lies in the fact that people embrace conflicting      evaluate the staggering challenges of our global energy future. 
 choices. A solution that looks ideal to some will look like bad judg-
 ment or even a nightmare to others.

 The U.S. currently has no consensual methods for making energy
 choices, yet these decisions carry enormous investment and public              Where Energy
 policy implications. The world needs $15 trillion every 40 years to
 rebuild energy infrastructure, or $375 billion each year for two gen-
                                                                                Education Gets an A
 erations. As the world’s population grows and more poor countries               Allegheny College: Energy courses offered as
 become richer, the yearly investment needed will grow.                           part of Environmental studies and sciences
 Citizens must participate in complex energy choices. It is not                  MIT: Energy Initiative provides excellent reports
 enough to leave the matter to technical experts or the operations of             on prospects for different energy sources
 a supposed free market. Technical experts have absolutely indis-                university of California, Berkeley: extensive
 pensable knowledge, but choices of technology also affect wealth                 courses in Energy and Resources Group and in
 and its distribution, politics, risks, land use and environmental                other departments; many departments and insti-
 quality, and ethics. In addition, many policies and subsidies for                tutes have significant research programs
 all energy sources mean that no truly free market in energy exists.
 The most important decisions will occur in the political arena, and
                                                                                 university of Delaware: Center for Energy
 citizens have both the right and the obligation to participate
                                                                                  and Environmental Policy and the Energy Institute
The World is Waiting - Joint BioEnergy Institute

                                            Illustration: Jillian Nickell
COVER PACKAGE   9                                                             SPRING 2011

Fuels for the Future
From cellulosic to drop-in, the toolbox is expanding                                               By Erik Vance

Rome was not built in a day and modern gasoline did not                  reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the raw plant materials
show up overnight. It took decades of refining and discovery             from which biofuels are made—the feedstock—will need to avoid
to perfect the blends and design ever-better engines to suit             competing with food crops for land and water.
the fuel. How long it will take to meet global aspirations for
                                                                         To develop new biofuels, global energy giants (including BP,
clean, sustainable, widely available transportation fuels made
                                                                         Chevron, Exxon, and Shell) are investing hundreds of millions of
from plants remains an open question. But over the past few
                                                                         dollars in partnerships with leading research universities to resolve
years biofuels research and technology—spurred by govern-
                                                                         fundamental issues of science. The largest of its kind, the Energy
ment support and private investment—are picking up speed
                                                                         Biosciences Institute, is a partnership among the University of Cali-
even as new ideas of what’s possible are expanding.
                                                                         fornia, Berkeley; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
Those ideas are coming from every facet of the biofuel production        Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and BP, with BP providing
chain—from farm to fuel tank. Researchers are grappling with how         $500 million over 10 years to the effort.
best to use and process the Earth’s tremendous wealth of biomass—
                                                                         At the same time a host of new biotech firms, many headquartered
whether it be with enzymes, yeast, bacteria or some other way—to
                                                                         in the San Francisco Bay Area, are emerging, joining forces with es-
make cellulosic ethanol, liquid fuel made from the stems, leaves and
                                                                         tablished energy companies or backed by venture capital. This new
woody parts of plants. At the same time, fuel scientists around the
                                                                         kind of biofuel company is moving fast to take the newest science
world are working to create entirely new biofuels to mimic gasoline,
                                                                         from the lab straight to the consumer.
diesel, and jet fuel so that they can be dropped easily into existing
engines, tanks, and pipelines.                                           “I see these technologies getting ready to come into the market,”
                                                                         says Mike McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Associa-
All of this is happening as world-wide attention and, at times,
                                                                         tion, which comprises companies working on new biofuels. “In
scrutiny grows. Today, 36 countries mandate the use of biofuels for
                                                                         the next 24 months you’re going to see butanol, you’re going to see
transportation. Most require only modest amounts of traditional
                                                                         renewable diesel, you’re going to see renewable jet fuel.”
ethanol made primarily from corn and sugarcane to be blended
with gasoline or biofuels blended with diesel (see page 11). But         Which fuels for the future?
some, led by the United States and the European Union, have put          One of the leaders in fuel innovation is Jay Keasling, a University
fuel standards in place for the coming decade that that are driving      of California, Berkeley chemical and bioengineering professor, and
biofuel advances.                                                        head of the Joint Bioenergy Institute. Located in the San Francisco
 These advanced biofuels will not only need to be produced at large      Bay Area and modeled like an entrepreneurial start-up, JBEI is one
scale, they will need to be competively priced, and they will need to    of three Department of Energy research centers charged with ac-
                                                                         celerating research and development into advanced biofuels as part
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                        COVER PACKAGE       10

    of the government’s mandate to produce           Massachusetts Institute of Technology and        left over after harvesting) for a competitive
    21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels for      other organizations are retrofitting bugs to     $2.35 a gallon.
    transportation by 2022.                          create biobutanol, a fuel that to this point
                                                     has not been in the market. The potential        Converting biomass into sugars
                          Keasling’s specialty is    for butanol is exciting because it appears       Regardless of the kind of biofuel you want
                          synthetic biology, the     to have all the benefits of ethanol without      to produce, you must start with the same
                          ability to design and      the drawbacks. Ethanol is corrosive, tends       component—sugar. And in the case of cel-
                          build biological systems   to pick up unwanted water, and lacks the         lulosic fuels, that means turning the fibrous,
                          for a specific purpose.    power of petroleum. Butanol is non-corro-        pulpy plant material into usable sugar. For
                          For biofuels, by chang-    sive, repels water, and has as much punch as     companies like POET, this breakdown (or
    ing the basic DNA codes of the yeasts and        jet fuel.                                        pre-treatment as it’s called) is the most
    bacteria that ferment sugar into alcohol,                                                         expensive step. Scientists say the best way
    Keasling and his team hope to control the        The MIT team, like many others, is trying        to break down fibrous cellulose and lignin
    kind of chemicals that come out. So rather       to find a life form that can create this new     is the same way that nature does it – with
    than ethanol, he can teach a microbe to          fuel. Their microbe of choice is a bacterium     enzymes. Enzymes are natural catalysts that
    produce perhaps a new form of biodiesel or,      that has been used in the past to clean up       kick-start chemical changes.
    say, an iso-octane, a component of gasoline      oil spills. Engineering a microbe that can
    which is used to calibrate fuel performance      create butanol is just the start, though.        “One of the big problems is the cost of

    standards.                                                                                                            enzymes,” says Chris
                                                                                                                          Somerville, UC Berke-
    Keasling, who grew up                                                                                                 ley professor and head
    on his family corn and                                                                                                of the Energy Biosci-
    soybean farm in Nebraska,                                                                                             ences Institute. “Right
    points out that 1.3 billion                                                                                           now it’s estimated
    tons of biomass lie fallow
    every year, as much en-
    ergy as 100 billion gallons
                                                   We welcome new                                                         to cost somewhere
                                                                                                                          between 50 cents and a
                                                                                                                          dollar per gallon of fuel
    of advanced biofuels a
    year. The key, he says, is
    that the new bio-sourced
                                                  entrants to the market,                                                 just for the enzymes
                                                                                                                          that convert the bio-
                                                                                                                          mass into sugars.”
    fuel must look and act like
    the petroleum-based fuels                             but.....                                                           With such a big price
                                                                                                                             tag, enzymes are now
    of today.
                                                                                                      seen as the major impediment to cost-effec-
                                                     Because butanol is toxic to microorganisms,
    “What are the fuels of the future that will                                                       tive biofuels and labs around the world are
                                                     it will collect and kill the very creatures
    be most effective? Gasoline and diesel. They                                                      working to find cheaper alternatives. Much
                                                     that created it. So the team, led by professor
    don’t have to be petroleum derived, but they                                                      has been made recently about exotic and
                                                     Anthony Sinskey, has been trying to create
    will be gasoline and diesel,” he says. “We’re                                                     creative places in nature to hunt for new
                                                     bacteria that not only synthesize a novel fuel
    trying to mimic as much of the petroleum-                                                         enzymes. Researchers, for example, have
                                                     but are immune to it.
    derived fuels as we can so that you don’t                                                         picked apart animals like termites look-
    have to compromise when you drive up to          Not everyone is convinced, though.               ing for the ability to spin straw into sugary
    the pump.”                                                                                        gold. Scientists make frequent trips to the
                                                      “We welcome new entrants into the               rainforests of Puerto Rico, which are said
    Ideally, these so called “drop-in” fuels would   market—all fuels to replace petroleum are        to have the most aggressive and dynamic
    be compatible with today’s refining and          good—but I think it’s going to be difficult      decomposition properties in the world (the
    distribution networks, thus being just as        for a molecule to compete with ethanol,          theory being nothing breaks down cellulose
    useful in a next-generation hybrid as a 1967     just on a cost basis,” says Jeff Broin, CEO of   like a rainforest).
    Mustang hardtop.                                 POET, a well-established ethanol producer.
                                                     POET has an ethanol plant that produces          Yet we don’t really even have a good sense
    Others, though, are looking toward new
                                                     ethanol from corn stover (the plant material
    kinds of fuels altogether. Researchers at the
                                                                                                                             continued on page 14
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                  COVER
                                                       THE ISSUE
                                                                 Q/A    16
                                                                         11                                                         SPRING 2011

    Global Mandates:
    The goal to transition away from
    petroleum-based transportation fuels to
    clean and renewable fuels made from
    plants is an ambition shared by nations,
    states, and regions across the globe. To
    respond to the challenge, and to provide
    a framework to spur their use, 36
    countries have mandates in effect for the
    use of biofuels and four more have put
    mandates partially in place, according
    to a 2010 report by the Global Biofuels
    Center. In addition, some governments,
    notably the United States and the Euro-
    pean Union, have adopted far-reaching
    goals for the coming decade that set
    usage goals and address the role of
    advanced biofuels to reduce greenhouse
    gas emissions.

    Mandates vary widely. In most cases
    current mandates call for fuel blends
    with a percentage of ethanol and              play, however, balancing supply and demand to meet policy ambitions is expected to
    biodiesel that typically come from            become a greater challenge.
    traditional sources, primarily corn and
    sugarcane (ethanol), and rapeseed             Today, the United States and Brazil dominate the world’s production of biofuels, led
    and soybeans (biodiesel). Most set a          by ethanol. In 2009, of the nearly 20 billion gallons of ethanol produced worldwide,
    minimum percentage of biofuel to be           the U.S. produced 10.6 billion gallons, primarily from corn; Brazil produced 6.6 billion
    blended into gasoline (for example, an        gallons from sugarcane. The next largest producers of ethanol were the EU, China,
    E10 mandate requires gasoline blended         Thailand, Canada, India, Colombia, and Australia, according to the Renewable Fuels
    with 10 percent ethanol) or biodiesel (a      Association.
    B3 mandate is 3 percent plant-based
    diesel blended with 97 percent diesel.)       Biodiesel is also produced worldwide but in much smaller amounts, with 650 million
    While not all of the 36 countries met         gallons produced globally in 2008. An estimated 200 countries were producing some
    their 2010 or earlier targets, most have      amounts of biodiesel in 2010.
    been successful. As future mandates
    that call for higher biofuel-blend percent-   The map on the next two pages highlights some examples of biofuels mandates and
    ages and requirements for advanced            use across the globe. Note that “mandates” as used here is a generic term that may
    and next-generation fuels come into           have varied meaning depending on each jurisdiction.
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                                             THE ISSUE Q/A            16

                          global ma
                g                   nd
         p   in



                                                                                              CANADA                                                                     uNITED KINGDOM
                                                                                              l 5% by renewable fuels volume in gasoline,
                                                                                                                                                                         l Met 2010-11 Renewable Transport

                                                                                              diesel, or other liquid petroleum fuel by 2010                             Fuels Obligation of 3.5%

      l low Carbon Fuel standard mandates

      10% carbon intensity reduction in                                                                               uNITED sTATEs
      transportation fuels by 2020                                                                                    l Renewable Fuel standard of 36 billion gallons of renewable

                                                                                                                      transportation fuels annually by 2022
                                                                                                                      l Allows blending up to E15 for certain model years

                    l E6 mandate for Mexico City and two

                    other regions by 2012
                                                                                                                                   COsTA RICA
                                                                                                                                   l E10 mandate for 2012

                                                                                                                                   l Committed to being the first country in the

                                                                                                                                   world to be carbon neutral by 2021

                                                  l Closing in on E10 mandate

                                                  l May increase to 20% biodiesel blend                                                                        BRAZIl
                                                  by 2012                                                                                                      l Meets one-half of its transportation fuel

                                                                                                                                                               demand with biofuels
                                                                                                                                                               l Ethanol blend mandate of 25% in effect

                                                                                                                                                               since 2002
                                                                                                                                                               l In 2010, raised biodiesel blend goal from

                                                                                                                                                               2% to 5%

                                                                                                                                        l 5% ethanol mandate starting
                                                                                                                                                                                                  sOuTH AFRICA
                                                                                                                                        in 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                  l 4% ethanol blend

          E = % of ethanol blended with gasoline or petrol
          B = % of biodiesel blended with diesel fuel
         Sources: Multiple, including government and media reports; Hart Energy Consulting,
         presentation to the Global Biofuels Outlook 2010-2020 (Oct. 2010); Emily Kunan &
         Jessica Chalmers, Sustainable Biofuels Development Policies, Programs, and Prac-
         tices in APEC Countries (APEC/Winrock 2009); Giovanni Sorda, et al., An overview
         of biofuels policies across the world, 38 Energy Policy 6977-6988 (2010); World
         Energy Council, Biofuels: Policies, Standards and Technologies (2010); Renewable
         Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Renewables 2010 Global Status
         Report (Sept.2010).
THE ISSUE Q/A            16                                                                                            SPRING 2011

l Renewable Energy Directive mandates 10% transportation fuels from

renewable sources by 2020; to qualify must achieve 35% GHG
reduction, accelerating to 50% & 60% after 2017
l Fuel Quality Directive (low carbon fuel standard) requires 6% reduc-

tion in lifecycle GHGs, per unit of energy, for all biofuels by 2020
l Individual member states responsible for implementation

  l Biofuel Quota Act and Biomass sustainability

  Ordinance in place since 2007

                                                                         l 10% ethanol blend mandate in 10 regions
                                                                         l Plans to meet 15% of its transportation needs

                                                                         with biofuels by 2020
                                                                                                                                                                        l No blending mandate

                                                                                                                                                                        l Emphasizing cellulosic biofuels from

                INDIA                                                                                                                                                   plant waste, rice straw, and lumber
                l Blend mandate of 20% biofuels in gasoline and

                diesel by 2017
                l Exploring non-food crops for biodiesel

                                                                                                                            INDONEsIA, THE PHIlIPPINEs, sOuTH
                                                                                                                           KOREA, TAIWAN, AND THAIlAND
                                                                                                                           l Nationwide biodiesel mandates, typically
                                                                                                                           at B2 levels
                                l 10% ethanol blend

                      l Implementing E10 and B5

                      blending ratios

                                                                                                                                                                            l Blend-level mandates for ethanol

                             MOZAMBIQuE                                                                                                                                     (E4) and biodiesel (B2) for only its most
                             l sugarcane and sweet sorghum                                                                                                                  populous state, New south Wales
                             approved as biofuels feedstock; coconut
                             and jatropha approved for biodiesel

                                                                                                                               NEW ZEAlAND
                                                                                                                               l Only country to date that set and then

                                                                                                                               abandoned a biofuels mandate in favor of
                                                                                                                               tax incentives to encourage use of ethanol
                                                                                                                               and biodiesel
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                      COVER PACKAGE        14

   Continued from page 10
   of the useful enzymes in our backyard. Take      down of the plant—to the plant itself.             about 30 miles, maybe less.”
   the cow rumen, which—as anyone who has
   stepped in a cow pie knows—is expert at          Plants, after all, are life forms and with mod-    That means that a feedstock needs to grow
   breaking down grass fiber. It’s a well-studied   ern genetics there is no reason they can’t         near the processing plant. Many species are
   source of enzymes, yet EBI researcher Eddy       be created pre-loaded with enzymes. The            under investigation and the list continues
   Rubin recently found a staggering 27,000         problem is that a plant that creates its own       to grow.
   new enzymes that play a role in biomass          corrosive enzyme would obviously wither
                                                    and die.                                           The ideal feedstock, in addition to its energy
   breakdown after sifting through 280 billion
                                                                                                       benefits, would grow where food crops
   base pairs of DNA from the hundreds of
                                                    “You don’t want to put a xylanase or a cellu-      struggle and wouldn’t tax local water re-
   microorganisms that inhabit cow rumen.
                                                    lase into a plant and have it chew up the cell     sources or demand expensive and polluting
   Essentially, a single cow’s rumen increased
                                                    walls while it’s trying to grow. We’ve actually    fertilizers. The National Resource Defense
   the world’s enzyme library by 30 percent.
                                                    done that, and you get all these stunted           Council, for example, supports biofuels but
   Bruce Dale at Michigan State University          plants,” says Agrivida founder and president       has adopted the mantra “not all biofuels are
   agrees it’s important to look for new excit-     R. Michael Raab. “It’s almost like they’re         created equal” to highlight the importance
   ing enzymes at the far corners of the Earth.     melting while they’re growing”                     of using only sustainable feedstocks.
   However, he says many of the same gains
                                                    That’s where a new tool, called an intein,         Giant biomass-generating perennial grasses
   can be made by tweaking the mixtures of
                                                    comes in. An intein is a removable segment         including switchgrass and Miscanthus are
   what is already in regular use.
                                                    of protein that keeps the rest of the protein      among the front-runners for temperate cli-
   “Commercial enzymes that most people             from working, like an internal “mute” but-         mates. Low-sugar varieties of sugarcane and
   have used in laboratories are mixtures. And      ton. Here’s how it could work: You insert an       Napier grass are favored in tropical climates
   they are actually quite undefined mixtures       intein into cellulase to mute the corrosive        with adequate rainfall. Fast growing poplar
   and haven’t really been optimized,” Dale says.   properties of the protein and the plant            and eucalyptus trees, Jatropha for biodiesel,
                                                    grows. When the plant is harvested for             and even agave and bull kelp are among
   Breaking down cellulose is more com-             conversion into sugar, a simple trigger—like       many that offer potential in various parts of
   plicated than putting grass clippings and        heating it—would remove the intein. The            the world.
   wood chips with a generic bottle marked          cellulase would reassemble and, like some
   “enzyme” in a machine and setting it to spin     kind of microscopic saboteur, start liquidat-      No silver bullet—not a problem
   cycle. Different enzymes work on different       ing cells.                                         In the end, of course, no one can predict
   plants and even on different parts of the                                                           with certainty how next-generation biofuels
   same plant. In addition, enzymes seem to         This technology is very new. Inteins were          will succeed or to what extent they will
   work differently when they are mixed with        only discovered in 1987 and even then it           challenge petroleum’s dominance. More
   other enzymes in an industrial setting.          took a while for some scientists to believe        and more the sense is that that there will
                                                    they were real. “People recognized RNA             not—and perhaps even should not—be a
   So researchers working with Dale at the          splicing and transcription but had never           silver-bullet solution.
   Great Lakes Bioenergy Center have been           seen protein splicing before,” Raab says. “It’s
   working to trim superfluous enzymes out of       pretty cool.”                                      Eric Toone, the deputy director for technol-
   the mix. It turns out that oftentimes much                                                          ogy at the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E
   of the enzyme mix is going to waste. By          Using a single enzyme, Raab and his team           program, says whether a company is grow-
   simply adjusting the existing mixtures, the      have also cut the need for added enzymes           ing energy crops or focused on breaking
   team has managed to cut by 75 percent the        in corn stover by 75 percent. He says when         down the cellulose or synthesizing it into
   amount of enzymes used in breaking down          they start mixing several enzymes into one         fuel, the most important part is that they
   the feedstock grass Miscanthus.                  plant, that number may jump above 90               be able to work with each other and be
                                                    percent.                                           interchangeable. “These pieces are modu-
   But there may be other solutions beyond                                                             lar. Exactly like Legos, so you can mix and
   finding the sleekest mixture of enzymes.         Zeroing in on the feedstocks                       match,” says Toone.
   What if the plant could break itself down,       Of course, the type of fuel and how to
   rather than stubbornly forcing humans            prepare it is pointless without a massive and      Toone says we don’t know what the game-
   to do it with expensive cocktails? Perhaps       steady source of plant material.                   changer will be. “The tool box we have today
   the most innovative approach to enzyme                                                              is so much bigger than what we had even
                                                    “Feedstocks is a huge issue,” says JBEI’s          just a few years ago,” he says, adding that the
   use abdicates our adding them altogether.
                                                    Keasling. “We are not going to ship biomass        only certainty is that fuel production in the
   Agrivida, a Boston-based biotech start-up,
                                                    all over. It’s too bulky. We’re going to ship it   future will be a diversified endeavor. 
   hopes to essentially outsource the break-
The paTh To
                                             are we there yet?
                                                                              By Heather Youngs
In 2007, Congress set target goals for the production of renewable fuels—36 billon gallons per
year by 2022, with a clear path of volumetric stepping stones to get there. While corn ethanol is
on target to reach the 15 billion gallons per year cap, the remaining 21 billion gallons—16 billion
gallons cellulosic fuel, 1 billion gallons renewable diesel, and 4 billion gallons of other advanced
fuels—are lagging.

In particular, cellulosic fuel production targets have not been met and the 2010 target was
reduced from 100 million gallons to 6.5 million, forcing a steeper path to the 2022 target.
So…why haven’t we achieved the targets and will we get there?
BIOENERGY CONNECTION                                                                        COVER PACKAGE                  16

   First, some perspective. It has only been 10                                    of the remaining companies had changed                                barriers in emerging technologies. Making
   years since the U.S. Congress passed the                                        locations or feedstocks, most embracing                               this leap is difficult for many new ventures
   Biomass Research and Development Act                                            non-cellulosic “starter” feedstocks to lower                          but it seems especially problematic for
   of 2000, the first federal policy to support                                    their entry costs.                                                    biorefineries for several reasons.
   production of biobased products. Cellulosic
   biofuels received their first specific incen-                                   At present, there appear to be about a dozen                          The success of a commercial biorefinery
   tive with passing of The Energy Policy Act                                      companies planning commercial-scale                                   requires an assured, high quality biomass
   of 2005 and policy supports have continued                                      cellulosic refineries in the next few years.                          supply. Conversely, the success of biomass
   to grow.                                                                        While the turnover reflects recent economic                           producers hinges on a reliable market to
                                                                                   constraints and technology hurdles, the                               absorb their product. In effect, two new in-
   The decade has brought serious research                                         continued entry of new companies provides                             terdependent supply chains must co-evolve
   dollars to the advanced biofuel effort. BP,                                     some forward momentum to the industry.                                within very thin margins of economic
   Shell, and Exxon have all invested millions.                                    As a result, the U.S. sits at a pivotal junc-                         viability and the risk associated with either
   In 2008, Ethanol Producer Magazine listed                                       tion—the jump to commercial production.                               endeavor is thus multiplied.
   nine companies planning to open commer-
   cial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in the                                     This transition to commercial scale, known                            This risk is compounded by uncertainty in
   U.S. A year later, in the midst of a substan-                                   as the “Valley of Death,” is a critical stage                         government support policies, spurred by
   tial economic downturn, half those projects                                     for evaluating economies of scale, market                             caution to avoid unwanted indirect effects.
   were scratched or placed on hold. Many                                          potential, and looming techno-economic                                The resulting lack of consensus definitions

   The Path to the Pump

                                                                                                     Adoption of new feedstocks
                          Biomass                R&D—Agronomy
                         Production                                                              Development of sustainable practices                                       Production ramp-up
                                                Genetics & Breeding
                                                                                                     Initial Feedstock production
                                                                                                                                                        Supply chain

                                                                                                                                                                                              Construction of
                                                                                        Tech refinement                                                                                      next-gen plants &
                           Biofuel                                                                                                           R&D              First-gen                     production ramp-up
                         Production                                                                                                                       plant construction
                                                                                                                Plant construction         Testing                             Economic
                                          R&D              Plant construction              Testing                                                                             Evaluation

                                          Lab                                 Pilot                                      Demonstration                                      Commercial
    Policy / Economics

                                          Technology                       Tech Push                                Niche                            Market Pull                   Achieving Competitiveness
                                          Demonstration                                                             Markets                                                        Mass Market
                                          (10-20 Years)                                                             (5-10 Years)
                                                Initial                                secondary stimulus /                                Tech-Neutral                            Remove Remaining
                         Penetration            stimulus                               Tech-Targeted Incentives                            supports                                Market Barriers
                                                • Broad R&D /                          • Mandates (Renewable Fuel Standard)                • GHG credits / penalties               • Standards
                                                  Capital Cost Support                 • Tax credits / Loan guarantees                     • Low Carbon Fuel Standard              • Certification
                                                                                       • Establish preliminary standards                                                           • Marketing

                                                                                                                                                                                             20 s2 ne c e
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COVER PACKAGE       17                                                                  SPRING 2011

for renewable fuels and renewable bio-
mass complicates the policy landscape for                   Companies with plans to open commercial-scale
biofuels and negatively affects investment
                                                            cellulosic biofuel plants in the U.S. before 2015
in capital expenditures for processing and
adoption of energy crops by farmers and                                             Volume
                                                          Company                                        Feedstock                  Location
foresters.                                                                         (Mgal/yr)

Cellulosic refineries require additional                   Abengoa                     20                 Variable                   Kansas
infrastructure for breaking down biomass,
with 2 to 3 times the capital costs of a stan-             Bluefire                    19                Wood MSW                   Mississippi
dard corn or sugarcane ethanol plant, and
risk is relatively high for these first-gener-                                         20                  Wood                     Tennessee
ation facilities. Leveraging public institu-
tions such as the Department of Energy                     Coskata                     55                 Variable                  Michigan
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in
the loan guarantee process has emerged as                  Enerkem                     10                  MSW                      Mississippi
a useful bridging tool but it is still not easy.
The DOE process is slow and rigorous and                   Fulcrum                    10.5                 MSW                       Nevada
while the USDA process is less cumber-
                                                          Great River                                                                North
some, Enerkem reports interviewing 60                                                  20               Wheat Straw
                                                            Energy                                                                   Dakota
banks before finding a lender.
                                                           Genahol                     30                  MSW                       Indiana
Long-term contracts between farmers
and fuel companies mitigate some risk for                 KL Energy                   100                  Wood
lending institutions, freeing up investment
capital needed for technology adoption                    Mascoma                      40                  Wood                     Michigan
and scale-up in both arenas. At least a
third of the companies seriously planning                   POET                       25                 Corn cobs                    Iowa
commercial plants have contracts in place
for feedstocks well in advance of breaking               Range Fuels                   20                  Wood                      Georgia
                                                           Vercipia                    30            Energy cane bagasse             Florida
The final challenge is not just scaling one
refining pathway, but an entire industry.                                                                                  MSW: Municipal Solid Waste

Even if all the currently planned facilities
are built, their combined capacity will only
be around 300 million gallons per year, fall-      ies but production volume will most likely        For example, enzyme costs for cellulosic
ing short of the adjusted federal target.          remain under target, providing leverage for       depolymerization have fallen 80 percent in
                                                   critics of the industry.                          the last two years.
To meet 2022 target volume, an aggressive
build rate will be required. USDA calculates       The final phase of accelerated fuel produc-       In short, the industry is moving ahead.
that 527 refineries with 40 million gallon         tion should result in measurable market           While the potential to reach the target
per year capacity would be needed at a             penetration. The rate of this build-out of        volumes is evident, how fast the industry
capital cost of $168 billion—the equivalent        second- or third-generation refineries will       can get there will remain unclear until the
of one new refinery per state per year over        depend on construction costs, local permit-       first scaled refineries are up and running.
the next ten years.                                ting barriers, the availability of financing in   Policies that facilitate the transition to
                                                   the context of market signals, political driv-    commercial-scale will continue to be vitally
Unfortunately, construction of new fa-             ers, and, of course, the price of oil.            important to achieving the goal of displac-
cilities is not likely to be a linear process.                                                       ing a significant volume of fossil fuel with
Rather, a short learning period of three to        Current research in academic centers and          renewables options. 
five years is expected while the first wave of     industrial labs has the potential to sub-
plants undergoes testing and optimization.         stantially enable and improve prospects for
A secondary growth period should follow            these latter stages of development. Process
with construction of improved refiner-             innovations continue to make huge strides.
The Issue Q/A
the meaning
of life(cycle)
Michael Wang                       CREDENTIALS

Affiliation: Joined Argonne in 1993, and now senior
scientist and manager of the Systems Assessment
Section of its Center for Transportation Research.

Education: Holds his Ph.D. in environmental
science from the University of California, Davis
(1992), and a B.S. in agricultural meteorology from
China Agricultural University in Beijing (1982).

Impact: Advises governments and companies in the
U.S., China, Europe, South Africa, Southeast Asia,
and Japan; 14,000 GREET users worldwide.

Outside the office: Hikes, bikes, jogs. (GREET
analysis not available).

Planet-saving advice: “Public transportation is
definitely the way to go.”

WORDs: Karen Holtermann   PHOTOGRAPHY: Kathryn Coulter
THE ISSUE Q/A     19                                                              SPRING 2011

When it comes to assessing fuel efficiency and environmental impacts, the old days are gone. Once we
were satisfied with vehicle MPGs and tailpipe emissions ratings, but no longer. Today, transportation
fuels and vehicle technologies are the subject of life cycle analysis (LCA), which assesses the impact of
each stage of their production and use—cradle to grave, or in fuel-expert shorthand, “well to wheels.”
Michael Wang of Argonne National Laboratory is the driving force behind GREET (Greenhouse gases,
Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation). An LCA modeling tool with humble beginnings,
GREET today is the gold standard for evaluating and comparing advanced fuels, vehicle technologies
and their many combinations.

Why did you develop                             How does it work for fuels?                       GREET is a free tool, avail-
GREET?                                          The purpose is to put all fuel options on a       able to anyone—do you
A project we were doing in 1994 for the         comparable basis. To do that, you have to         monitor its use?
Department of Energy required us to             consider each stage of the whole life cycle
                                                                                                  Having GREET in the public domain, on
examine energy and emissions implications       of each option. For example, for petroleum
                                                                                                  the web and in Excel, has made it transpar-
of different transportation fuels and vehicle   it’s recovery, refining, gas distribution, and
                                                                                                  ent, a step-by-step form to follow. If I’ve
technologies. Mark Delucchi, a friend from      so on. For biofuels, we look at fertilizer
                                                                                                  made any contribution in this field, it has
graduate school, had generated a model that     production, feedstock farming, feedstock
                                                                                                  been to popularize LCA and demystify it.
I thought I could use. But it was in Lotus      transportation, fuel production, fuel dis-
                                                                                                  GREET has a large user base, and most just
1-2-3 on the Mac, and I couldn’t open and       tribution, etc. We simulate energy use and
                                                                                                  download and use it themselves. We do not
use it. So I put together an Excel spread-      emissions at each stage, and then make
                                                                                                  have full control of how they use it, and Ar-
sheet, just to finish the project. Afterward,   overall comparisons.
                                                                                                  gonne does not endorse user results. When
DOE asked if we could make it available for                                                       you change the parameters of GREET, the
others. That was the start of GREET.            Since the first version in                        results are yours.
                                                1996, how has the tool
                                                evolved?                                          A 2008 study partially using
                                                Each new version is more complicated, with        GREET concluded that the
                                                more fuel and vehicle options and more            impacts of biofuels on glob-
                                                issues to address. The ongoing effort is to
                                                                                                  al land use would be dire,
                                                get the best, most up-to-date data and our
                                                LCA research results into GREET—this is           and advocated halting bio-
                                                what life cycle analysis is all about. The area   fuel development. You chal-
                                                is evolving very fast. We have to be open-        lenged that study in a letter
                                                minded and keep abreast of new technol-           to Science magazine. Did the
                                                ogy developments. On the other hand, we
                                                have to evaluate new information carefully,
                                                                                                  episode affect your thinking
                                                especially when so much is disseminated on        about GREET?
                                                the web. You have to do your homework and         Land use change has been a major issue in
                                                make judgment calls on what is credible.          expanding GREET’s system boundaries for
                                                People trust the information we use and           biofuel analysis. It’s complicated. You have
                                                put into GREET, and we have to be extra           economic, social, political, even cultural
                                                careful on our default data and parameters        factors in different countries and regions.
                                                in GREET.                                         To use only economic factors to simulate
                                                                                                  land use change, to me, is too limited. That’s
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