What’s Next for Alternative Energy?

Many reports in the past year have come out and determined that alternative energy such as wind and solar will have a major impact by 2030. However, in a new report released today, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says that the impact could happen sooner than others predict. What’s Next for Alternative Energy?” examines seven influential and promising alternative energy technologies including advanced biofuels, electric vehicles (EVs), concentrated solar power (CSP), solar photovoltaic (PV), onshore and offshore wind, and clean coal through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

The success of each alt energy was determined based on three key issues:

  • • Can it achieve cost competitiveness with conventional energy by 2020 and be economically viable without subsidies?
  • • Can it overcome barriers to rapid adoption once cost competitive?
  • • Can it reach penetration levels by 2025 that disrupt the status quo?

The report contains many key findings but several of note. In particular, as costs rapidly decrease for the production of advanced biofuels, CSP and solar PV, they will become cost competitive within the next five to ten years. In addition, onshore wind power will see steady adoption and continued growth but still faces a barrier with energy storage limitations and cost. Conversely the report determined that offshore wind will continue to struggle to move beyond subsidy-driven growth.

Other interesting findings include the conclusion that EVs will see steady adoption and will become economically feasible by 2020, and clean coal through CCS will have very slow adoption and will not be viable for a decade or more.

“There is no question that conventional energy sources will constitute the bulk of the world’s energy for at least the next couple of decades,” said Balu Balagopal, a Houston-based senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “But a few of these green-energy technologies will make their presence felt very likely within the next few years.”Their costs are falling quickly and significantly, pushing them closer to where they can compete on price—without subsidies—against fossil-fuel-based sources.”

Balagopal continued by explaining that as they become more cost-competitive, adoption will be constrained more by barriers such as the need to develop infrastructure. “However, we believe these barriers will likely prove surmountable,” concluded Balagopal.

Global Oil Subsides Reach $312 Billion

Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2010 Edition of the World Energy Outlook in which it reported that global fossil-fuel subsidies have amounted to more than US $312 billion in 2009. The number includes subsidies to fossil fuels used in final consumption and to fossil fuel inputs to power generation. However, the report did not include direct producer subsidies that topped US $100 billion last year according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

The IEA report noted that the $312 billion was down from US $558 billion in 2008, most notably because oil prices declined in 2009. Conversely, if experts are correct, the subsidies should climb again in 2010 with the increase in oil prices.

“As we strive to develop alternatives to oil we must recognize that we are not competing on a level playing field,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Massive multi-billion dollar oil subsides are a serious obstacle to the development of cleaner greener alternatives. Oil has a huge competitive advantage financed by global taxpayers.”

Next week the G20 will meet in Korea and the issue of oil subsidies is on the agenda following a commitment made at the G20 meeting in Pittsburg in September 2009. The EIA has been optimistic that they can spearhead a campaign to reduce global oil subsidies and will be presenting its case during the summit.

“Despite the IEA’s optimism that there is momentum for reducing subsidies, not one country has eliminated an oil subsidy program since signing on to the pledge in 2009,” said Baker.

In addition to the consumption subsidies, several countries continue to provide domestic producer subsidies to oil companies at alarming rates. According to a November 2010 study done by Earth Track, many countries continue to provide direct producer subsidies to oil companies including:

  • • Canada provides over US $2 billion per year to oil companies
  • • U.S. producer subsidies reached US  $52 billion in 2009
  • • European Union provided US $8 billion in subsidies to oil companies in 2009

Baker concluded, “It is time for the G20 to show leadership and reverse this practice of never ending subsidies to big oil. It is time to move beyond oil to a world with sustainable alternatives to crude oil such as biofuels and other renewable forms of energy.”

New Controversial Biofuels Report Released

According to a new study released this week, the European Union (EU) plans to increase its use of biofuels over the next 10 years and it will require 69,000 square kilometers of new land causing climate change to become worse. “Driving to Destruction” was commissioned by a coalition of environmental and development NGOs and the study reports that by 2020, 90 percent of the 9.5 percent of biofuels will come from food crops.

“Biofuels are not a climate-friendly solution to our energy needs. The EU plans effectively give companies a blank cheque to continue grabbing land from the world’s poor by growing biofuels that fill our cars rather than their stomachs,” said Laura Sullivan, ActionAid’s European Policy and Campaigns Manager. “Europe’s energy policies are putting millions of people in danger and threaten Africa’s fragile food security.”

The global biofuels community is not taking the report lying down. “As a matter of record, our industry has always welcomed the debate about biofuels sustainability in large part because the alternative – more oil – is by definition unsustainable,” said Bliss Baker with the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA). “However, NGO’s that use this debate as an opportunity to stoke fears and sell memberships in their organizations do a disservice to us all.”

According to the report, an area over twice the size of Belgium will need to be converted into biofuels plantations putting poor communities in danger if European countries use industrial biofuels to meet their renewable energy targets by 2020. Even more, the report claims that when indirect land use change is taken into account, a highly contested theory, biofuels will emit an extra 27-56 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent to an extra 12 to 26 million cars on Europe’s roads by 2020. Lastly, the report states that under the plans, 5 countries will be responsible for three quarters of all extra emissions. The UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France are projected to produce the most extra greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels.

Baker continued, “The research is chalk full of allegations disguised as facts. The report repeatedly makes statements as if they are facts such as ‘…the EU plans WILL result in the conversion of up to 69,000 sq. km of land for the use of biofuels.’ Sounds ominous but for the one word “upto.” It could be 1 square kilometer that gets converted. The point is they don’t know how many kilometres will be converted (if any) and predicting it with any degree of confidence has yet to be demonstrated anywhere.” Continue reading

UNEP Releases Water & Bioenergy Paper

Water is becoming a growing global concern and according to a new issues brief released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), water could determine the degree to which bioenergy can contribute to combating climate change through renewable fuels. “Water and Bioenergy” was presented during the Convention on Biodiversity meeting (CBD COP10) in Nagoya, Japan.

One element of great concern addressed in the paper is in areas where water is already scarce, biofuels programs could increase environmental and social pressures. The paper continued by stating that “bioenergy development can have an impact on biodiversity on a number of levels: by changing land-use, introducing invasive species for use in biofuel production, overusing water and pushing agricultural production into areas with high conservation value (indirect land use change).” However, the paper also said that if done correctly, on both a global and local level, biofuel programs can be beneficial.

“There is no doubt that we need to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and move to cleaner, more environmentally friendly options, but we need to make sure we are not creating more problems than we solve,” said Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and UNEP Executive Director.

Steiner continued, “We need to examine all the risks, so that we can take full advantage of the opportunities, for emissions cuts, for new green jobs, and for raising the standards of living for some of the world’s poorest communities.”

UNEP spells out some of those considerations in four issues papers now being circulated that compliment the report, “Accessing Biofuels,” launched last year.

In “Water and Bioenergy” the UNEP cites research that shows that two per cent, or 44 km3, of the global water withdrawals for irrigation is being used for bioenergy production. However, if current bioenergy standards and targets were fully implemented, a further 180 km3 of irrigation water would be needed, creating additional pressure on water resources and potentially impacting on food production and water supplies, especially in those areas already experiencing water stress.

According to the paper, the water footprint of bioenergy can be up to 400 times greater than that of traditional fossil fuels; therefore, the greatest challenge will be to determine how to meet future bioenergy demand without overexploiting or damaging water resources, and how to better manage bioenergy supply chains to reduce the pressure on water use and minimize impacts on water quality.

You can download “Water and Bioenergy” here.

Algae Biofuels To Reach 61M Gallons by 2020

According to a new report released by Pike Research, algae biofuels production will reach 61 million gallons per year with a corresponding market value of $1.3 billion by 2020. While barely a drop in the bucket for biofuels, this represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 72 percent, roughly on par with early development in the biodiesel industry. The study, “Algae-Based Biofuels,” examines the key growth drivers behind the algae-based biofuels market and outlines unresolved supply challenges. The report includes detailed 10-year market forecasts, segmented by world region, along with analysis of market conditions in key countries and profiles of key industry players that are shaping the emerging algae biofuels business.

Early research has given preview to algae’s advantages for fuel production including its ability to yield 2 to 20 times more oil per acre than leading oilseed crops. In addition, it doesn’t utilize non food-based feedstock and can grow on non-arable land and in wastewater, including salt water.

“On paper, algae could displace worldwide petroleum use altogether, however, the industry has yet to produce a drop of oil for commercial production,” said Pike Research President Clint Wheelock. “Although the algae-based biofuels market will grow rapidly once key cost hurdles are overcome, widespread scale-up will be hampered by a number of difficult challenges including access to nutrients, water, and private capital.”

Wheelock added that with the cost of production still a key obstacle to widespread production, many companies are refocusing production efforts on low-volume, high-value co-products to develop revenue streams over the next decade.

The report anticipates that the U.S. will lead the way in early production with nearly 50 percent of algae activity happening in the states. Next in line is the European Union, which is home to about 30 percent of algae activity, but their efforts will will initially hampered by the industry’s focus on university research, and later by insufficient access to water, land and nutrient sources. Over time, the report anticipates that Latin America and Asia Pacific will gain significant market share.

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USDA Releases Updated Biofuels Report

Today, the USDA has released an updated version of its report, “Effects of Increased Biofuels on the U.S. Economy in 2022,” The report examines how meeting the RFS2 would affect various key components of the U.S. economy. What is not debated is that the rise in biofuel production using cost-savings technologies, along with petroleum price increases, will bring about benefits for the economy. However, the report notes that actual benefits (or costs) to the U.S. economy very much depends on future oil prices and the future of tax credits. Should oil prices stabilize, or even decrease from current levels and should the tax credits continue, then benefits to the economy would diminish.

More specifically the study examines the potential effects of the RFS-2 on the U.S. economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), household income and consumption, price and quantity of energy fuels, and agricultural production and trade. The researches compare the U.S. economy in 2022 with and without the RFS2.

Overall the study findings were positive. The report concludes, “If biofuel production technology advances and petroleum prices continue to rise as projected, the RFS-2 could benefit the U.S. economy. U.S. household consumption would rise because of higher real wages, increased household income, and lower import prices. By substituting domestic biofuels for imported petroleum, the United States would pay less for imports overall and receive higher prices for exports, providing a gain for the economy from favorable terms of trade. Improved technology and increased investment would enhance the ability of the U.S. economy to expand.”

Click here to download a full copy of the report.

ILUC From Corn Ethanol “Minimal to Zero”

In a report that will be published soon,”Decomposition Analysis of U.S. Corn Use for Ethanol Production from 2001-2008,”the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory concludes that the indirect land use change (ILUC) as a result from the expansion of corn ethanol production over the past decade has likely been “minimal to zero.” The study was requested by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has appointed several teams of expert working groups to assess the methodology and data that went into California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

In response to the news, Geoff Cooper, the Vice President for Research and Analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association remarked, “The most recent work on ILUC is showing that ethanol expansion in the U.S. simply isn’t incurring the type of land use changes that were originally hypothesized. The initial results recently presented by the Department of Energy are further proof that America can continue to meet its global responsibilities to provide food and feed, while simultaneously providing a cleaner, domestic alternative to petroleum—all without needing to bring new lands into agriculture.”

The results of the study were released during the last CARB meeting focused on ILUC held last week. The time frame reviewed was during 2001-2008, when the U.S. ethanol industry more than quadrupled. The researchers concluded, “Empirical evidence does not support significant effects on U.S. commodity exports [and] other crops or cropland expansion in the U.S.”

“This should put the stake into the heart of the bizarre ILUC scheme. Here are some of the best scientists in the country – scientists who have no stake in the game – who found that ethanol had little to no impact from ILUC,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “We must ask why California insists on going forward with a regulation that is based not just on controversial theory, but a theory that has been disproven.”

Coinciding with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s research, a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology and authored by Bruce Dale and other researchers at Michigan State University, “Biofuels Done Right: Land Efficient Animal Feeds Enable Large Environmental and Energy Benefits,” found that significantly larger volumes of biofuels can be produced without incurring ILUC.

“Using less than 30% of total U.S. cropland, pasture, and range, 400 billion liters (106 billion gallons) of ethanol can be produced annually without decreasing domestic food production or agricultural exports. This approach also reduces U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 670 Tg CO2-equivalent per year, or over 10% of total U.S. annual emissions, while increasing soil fertility and promoting biodiversity. Thus we can replace a large fraction of U.S. petroleum consumption without indirect land use change,” the authors concluded in the paper.

Farming For Algae

Steve Mayfield, the Director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, believes that we need new sources and new revenue streams for agriculture. The most important element of the crop, says Mayfield, is that it can’t complete with existing agriculture. His answer? Algae.

Algae, says Mayfield, is going to be the next big agricultural crop. The only difference is algae grows on water, whereas traditional ag crops grow on land.

Today, researchers across the country are studying algae to produce fuel and feed and maybe even some day fiber, and Mayfield told me during an interview as part of a San Diego Algae Tour, that what we’re looking for in algae is exactly what they worry about in ag.

There are four things that Mayfield and his team are focusing on in their algae research: growth rate, the product being made, crop protection and harvestability. For example, when his team is growing algae, they need it to grow fast, produce a high amount of lipids, be free of disease, and be harvested as cheaply as possible.

I asked Mayfield when we would see full-scale deployment of algae fuel and he noted, “In this country, it took 100 years to reach the scale of ag we’re at right now. It’s not going to take 100 years to get to that scale in algae because the need is much great now.” You would typically build up your technology as the population increases, continued Mayfield, but the population increase is here now and we’re running out of fuel.

Mayfield estimates that we’re ten years away, and approximately $10 billion from commercial production but he is confident we’ll get there.

You can view pictures from my algae trip in my San Diego Algae Tour Photo Album.

Shell & MIT Partner to Pursue Energy Technology

In a $25 million research opportunity, Shell has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to support the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) that will focus on research and development of sustainable technologies designed to drive innovation in energy delivery. Beginning this year, MIT will receive $5 million per year for five years from Shell. The projects that the MITEI will engage in will focus on advanced modeling, earth science, biofuels, nanotechnology, and carbon management. MITEI was founded in 2006.

“Both Shell and MIT are globally recognized innovation leaders. This collaboration accents Shell’s commitment to develop new technologies and drive innovative solutions to address the global energy challenge,” said Gerald Schotman, chief technology officer, Royal Dutch Shell. “Our collaboration with MIT will form another important building block in strengthening Shell’s global technology leadership.”

One of the longer term goals of the collaboration is to develop future and emerging technologies that demonstrate game-changing potential for the energy industry. The collaboration will focus on a broad array of existing and new oil and gas technologies including but not limited to next-generation applications in nanotechnology, biochemistry, electronics, and computer modeling (Let’s also hope they develop technology to help prevent and/or clean up oil spills).

“The lack of access to affordable energy poses a significant barrier to economic advancement around the globe. Together with the rapidly accelerating demand for energy, the need to develop environmentally sensitive and sustainable energy resources becomes increasingly acute. Our collaboration with Shell will drive energy innovations with the potential for significant, real-world impact,” said Susan Hockfield, president, MIT.

Other ares of focus are research into water treatment improvements, greater fuel efficiency, new solar energy applications and enhanced catalytic technology for advanced fuel cells, and smart grids.

Professor Ernest J. Moniz, director of MIT Energy Initiative concluded, “Shell has earned a reputation for advancing a broad portfolio of important energy technologies and for a long-term view of how the global energy system will and should evolve. We are excited about this opportunity to significantly expand our research and education collaboration.”

Brown Researchers Green WVO-to-Biodiesel Conversion

Researchers at Brown University have found a more streamlined and greener way to turn waste vegetable oil into biodiesel.

This school press release says Brown University chemist Jason Sello and postdoctoral researcher Aaron Socha have eliminated the corrosive chemicals usuallu used in the reactions… a process that is six times faster than previous methods, using less energy:

“We wanted to develop an environmentally benign and technically simple way to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel,” said Sello, assistant professor of chemistry. “The production of energy at the expense of the environment is untenable and should be avoided at all costs.”

Waste vegetable oil is made up of triacylglycerols, free fatty acids, and water. The conventional way to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel requires two separate reactions. The first reaction turns the free fatty acids into biodiesel, but that conversion requires sulfuric acid. The second reaction converts the triacylglycerols into biodiesel, but that conversion requires sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide/potassium hydroxide and sulfuric acid are not compatible with each other, so the reactions must be carried out in separate vessels. That makes the process less efficient.

To find a better way, Sello and Socha went looking for catalysts that would be cheap, chemically stable and of limited toxicity. They settled on the metals bismuth triflate and scandium triflate, commonly used as catalysts in preparative organic chemistry. In addition, they performed the reactions using a microwave reactor instead of a conventional thermal heater. What they found was the new catalysts converted waste vegetable oil into biodiesel in about 20 minutes in the microwave reactor, whereas current reactions without catalysts using a conventional heater take two hours. While their microwave method needs a higher temperature to pull off the biodiesel conversion — 150 degrees Celsius versus 60 degrees Celsius under current methods — it uses less energy overall because the reaction time is much shorter.

The chemists also were able to perform the conversion in one reaction vessel, since the catalysts can promote both the reaction that converts free fatty acids into biodiesel and the reaction in which triacylgycerols are converted to biodiesel.

The catalysts in the conversion can be reused up to five times. Now the challenge is to do the process on an industrial scale.

Hemp Shows Promise as Biodiesel Feedstock

Industrial hemp could be a good feedstock for biodiesel.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut
have found that Cannabis sativa’s ability to grow in poor soils makes it a sustainable source for the green fuel:

“For sustainable fuels, often it comes down to a question of food versus fuel,” says [Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering who led the study], noting that major current biodiesel plants include food crops such as soybeans, olives, peanuts, and rapeseed. “It’s equally important to make fuel from plants that are not food, but also won’t need the high-quality land.”

Today, there are still parts of the world that rely on Cannabis stalks as a primary fiber, mainly because of its ability to grow “like a weed,” without requiring lots of water, fertilizers, or high-grade inputs to flourish. But the seeds, which house the plant’s natural oils, are often discarded. Parnas points out that this apparent waste product could be put to good use by turning it into fuel.

“If someone is already growing hemp,” he says, “they might be able to produce enough fuel to power their whole farm with the oil from the seeds they produce.” The fact that a hemp industry already exists, he continues, means that a hemp biodiesel industry would need little additional investment.

While the hemp oil does a nice job of converting into biodiesel … 97 percent of the oil makes the transition … there is one major drawback: it’s illegal to grow in the U.S. Maybe that will change if lawmakers ever realize that this form of cannabis with less than 1 percent psychoactive chemicals in its flowers … about 1/20th of that of some of its potent cousins … won’t get you high.

Study: Biodiesel Safer for Workers than Diesel

A new study shows that workers around the exhaust from biodiesel have reduced exposures to health risks than those exposed to petroleum diesel exhaust.

New Hampshire’s Keene State College did the study entitled, “Biodiesel versus Diesel: A Pilot Study Comparing Exhaust Exposures for Employees at a Rural Municipal Facility,” and Biodiesel Magazine reports that a B20 blend “dramatically reduces work area respirable particle and formaldehyde levels compared with petroleum diesel.”

The team of researchers that completed the study used the same facility equipment and alternated between diesel fuel and a B20 blend, measuring the equipment cabin and the perimeter of the work area for known toxins such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene and formaldehyde. During the process, the researchers noted two areas of difficulty in the testing approach, “limited measurements of existing human exposure and difficulty developing techniques to identify a unique signature that distinguishes diesel exhaust from background air pollution.” The techniques used to measure for pollutants involved a high-sensitivity real time light scattering monitor called a Haz-Dust EPAM-5000 along with various filters. For sampling days, “researchers and students performed equipment calibrations before and after sampling, positioned the equipment in the same locations, and regularly performed operational checks on all of the equipment.”

Four pieces of equipment were in the study, a large front-end loader, a small front-end loader, a skid steer and a propane-powered forklift, and the same employees operated the equipment for the duration. The facility consisted of a single, large building with one large bay door and no mechanical ventilation. “Although biodiesel may hold promise for reducing exposure to PM and carbonyls, more comprehensive biodiesel data are needed to determine if these reductions are replicable and statistically significant,” the study notes. However, while the study states that diesel effects are still somewhat unknown, “Biodiesel may offer immediate, nationwide risk reduction opportunities, even as the debate regarding the level of health risk posed by diesel continues.”

You can read the entire report here.

New Regs Needed for Cellulosic Fuels to See Fruition

According to a new study published today in the October issue of BioScience, “Far-reaching Deleterious Impacts of Regulations on Research and Environmental Studies of Recombinant DNA-modified Perennial Biofuel Crops in the United States,” researchers argue that the current regulatory system will need a monumental overhaul in order for cellulosic bioenergy to reach its true potential. The authors write that cellulosic biofuels are hampered by a “deep and thorny regulatory thicket” that has made it near impossible to use advanced gene modification methods to advance cellulosic biofuels production.

“It’s extraordinary that gene modification technology, which has been adapted more rapidly than any other technology in the history of agriculture, and had some profound environmental and economic benefits, has been regulated virtually out of existence for perennial cellulosic biofuels crops,” said Steve Strauss, a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University, and lead author of the paper.

In the paper, the authors note that exotic plant species pose a serious risk of spread and ecosystem impacts, yet face significantly less stringent regulation or obstacles than genetically engineered crops, which are carefully designed to solve problems, not cause them. As a result, the authors write, many research projects have had to stay away from gene modification methods and this has slowed down the entry of cellulosic biofuels to market. In addition, researchers who pursue gene trait modification are open to regulation nightmares and legal albatrosses.

The authors cite several traits that could be improved with gene modification including enhanced stress tolerance, reduced costs of conversion to liquid fuels, reduced use of water and fertilizer in cultivation, avoiding dispersal into the environment, and synthesis of new, renewable products such as industrial enzymes.

The authors conclude that the end result of a gene modification project should be regulated based on whether it is safe and beneficial, not the process used to produce it.

“It is essential that we create an intelligent regulatory system that does not indiscriminately penalize the gene modification process and obstruct essential field research,” Strauss said. “The one-size-fits-all style system of today treats the process of genetic modification as inherently dangerous, although many high-level science panels have concluded that the process is at least as safe as conventional breeding methods.”

Ultimately, the scientists concluded that solving these problems will require new ways of thinking, strong scientific and political leadership, and regulatory system that awards safe and beneficial new plants that could help solve the globe’s energy and environmental issues.

Electric Cars More Impactful Than RES

Which is better for our country in terms of oil dependence? Enacting a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or moving forward with developing and deploying electric vehicles and electric vehicle infrastructure? According to a new report released by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, electric cars hold greater promise for reducing emissions and lowering U.S. oil imports than a national RES.

This is just one conclusion of several made in the new study, “Energy Market Consequences of an Emerging U.S. Carbon Management Policy,” that will be released during the Baker Institute Energy Forum taking place today and tomorrow. The study folds together several academic working papers on a variety of topics, such as carbon pricing, the wind industry, global U.S. carbon and energy strategies, and renewable energy R&D.

“As the country moves forward to deliberate on energy and climate policy,” the executive summary states, “consideration must be given to what policies would best accomplish the stated goals for U.S. policy — a reduction in the need for imported oil and in greenhouse gas emissions.” The papers released at the conference seek to “clarify and debunk common myths that currently plague the U.S. energy- and climate-policy debate.”

For example, the study discovered that “the single most effective way to reduce U.S. oil demand and foreign imports would be an aggressive campaign to launch electric vehicles into the automotive fleet.” It goes on to outline that if policy were enacted that would mandate 30 percent of all vehicles must be electric by 2050, it would reduce U.S. oil use by 2.5 million barrels a day beyond the 3 million barrels-per-day savings already anticipated from the stricter fuel efficiency standards. In addition, emissions would be cut by 7 percent, 3 percent more than would would be eliminated under an RES.

In addition to the conclusions surrounding electric vehicles, the study also forecasts that natural gas will play an important role in the  future of the country’s energy mix.

Clean Energy Policy Under Fire by Big Oil & Friends

The Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) has released a new analysis that concludes that Big Oil and other special interests have spent millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat clean energy legislation. The study, “Dirty Money” found that the top 35 spending companies and trade associations, including oil, mining and electric utility,  invested more than $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions from January 2009-June 2010 to crush clean energy and clean tech legislation. Besides the federal level, one of the states Big Oil has been most active in is California. When analyzed the groups spent $1,800 in lobby expenditures a day for every senator and representative during the time of the study.

According to CAPAF this high dollar spending and political pressure has convinced enough legislators to oppose clean energy measures that would have created jobs, reduced oil use and cut pollution caused by global warming. To date, no comprehensive environmental policy has been passed, the renewable electricity industry is struggling for a federal renewable energy mandate, the biodiesel industry has lost its tax credits, and rumors coming out of DC this week are that the ethanol tax credit will not be extended either.

“This year had many extreme weather disasters and fossil fuel catastrophes. Yet too many senators ignored these events and instead heeded the extreme views of big oil, dirty coal, and their allies rather than those of the American people,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “America suffered from its hottest temperatures and worst offshore oil blowout, yet enough senators opposed clean energy reforms that made change impossible so far.”

Six of the seven companies with the largest lobbying expenditures are Big Oil companies*ExxonMobil (1), ConocoPhillips (2), Chevron (3), BP (5), Koch Industries (6), and Shell (7). According to “Dirty Money,” their 18-month lobbying expenditures total $143 million. In addition, the study reports that the American Petroleum Institute, a Big Oil front group, spent $11 million to lobby Congress to defeat pollution reductions and maintain their tax loopholes, along with another $126 million on television ads just this year alone.

“While big oil, dirty coal, and other special interests profit from inaction, everyday Americans will pay the price of doing nothing. Clean energy investments and pollution reductions would create jobs, protect public health, and reduce our oil dependence,” noted Weiss. But because enough senators caved to special interests, China will get our clean energy jobs while we are stuck with the dirty energy pollution.”

Ironically, this past July, China became the world’s largest user of energy, surpassing America and according to analysts polled by Bloomberg, China will become the largest importer of oil within the next 1o years.