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UC Davis study offers new insight on biofuels

August 5, 2014, Davis, Calif. – The efficiency and process improvements that are taking place at existing U.S. biorefineries should be considered when setting new renewable fuels standards, according to a new study released last week by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis (ITS-Davis).


August 5, 2014
By UC Davis

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August 5, 2014, Davis, Calif. – The efficiency and process
improvements that are taking place at existing U.S. biorefineries should be
considered when setting new renewable fuels standards, according to a new study
released last week by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis
(ITS-Davis).

 

UC Davis researchers measured the incremental changes that
are occurring in the U.S. biofuels industry and discussed their relevance in
advancing domestic environmental goals. The research shows that a variety of
biofuel innovations are doing more today to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions than the long-sought advanced biofuels and could help speed
deployment of those biofuels.

 

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The study, “Three Routes Forward for Biofuels: Incremental,
Transitional and Leapfrog,” was authored by a team of researchers at ITS-Davis’
Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program (NextSTEPS).

 

The study identifies three routes forward for biofuels:

  • An incremental route in which small improvements are made at
    existing biorefineries.
  • A transitional route in which cellulosic “bolt-on”
    production and other innovations leverage existing biorefinery investments and
    build know-how with cellulosic materials and processes.
  • A leapfrog route that focuses on major technological
    breakthroughs in cellulosic and algae-based pathways at new, stand-alone
    biorefineries.

 

“Together these three routes suggest a new way to think
about the U.S. biofuels future, and a strategy to help achieve California’s
2020 LCFS [low carbon fuel standard] targets as well as national ones,” writes
Fulton. “To the extent that RFS revisions recognize these routes and encourage
Incremental GHG reductions at existing biorefineries while leveraging
Transitional investments to speed development of Leapfrog technologies, the
faster that the entire U.S. biofuels system can deliver on their promised
environmental performance.”


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