Biofuels International 2017: Q&A session with Fuel Freedom Foundation’s Robin Vercruse

The Biofuels International Conference, a world leading biofuels event, will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 and 5 October 2017, covering the whole biofuels supply chain. The show will focus on all the new developments and the latest challenges.

Topics covered in the seminars include global policy uncertainty, reintroducing E10, RED II and the future of the bioethanol market.

For the first time, the Biofuels International Conference will be co-located with Bioenergy Insight Conference & Expo 2017. Topics on the bioenergy side include financing bioenergy projects and the global biomass supply chain.

Major names including Shell, Gevo, the National Biodiesel Board, the European Biodiesel Board and Platts will attend the conference.

Among them will be Robin Vercruse, VP of policy and environment at Fuel Freedom Foundation. She shares her thought on the biofuels industry below.

What role can biofuels play in the low-carbon economy?

Biofuels can play a significant role for reducing carbon intensity in transportation, provided the politics and/or economics don’t derail their viability. Those hurdles are significant. No. US federal policies currently focus broadly on decarbonisation of transportation fuels. And the politics make it unlikely in the next few years at least. On the other hand, the state of California could spur progress by its size and its influence with other US states committed to carbon reduction. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard ostensibly favours low-carbon biofuels over petroleum or other higher-carbon pathways, including less efficient biofuels. But there is a big caveat. California’s waiver to set more aggressive fuel economy standards and continued commitment to decarbonisation have, to date, nonetheless frozen biofuels from the long-term light-duty transportation agenda in favour of all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell technologies. Unless regulators accept that--for both practical and economic reasons - liquid fuels will dominate the roadways for decades to come, biofuels will struggle to gain a substantial foothold for the long term.

What will the policy and operational landscape look like in 2018 in the US?

There are a few key policy drivers in the US. In 2018 and beyond. At the federal level, two independent topics will influence the long-term viability of biofuels. One is the ongoing debate about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Congress has recently taken up an effort to critically evaluate and possibly revamp policies that affect the market prospects of renewable fuels. The other major policy driver may be the current re-evaluation of the US fuel economy standards. To date, the standards have only considered vehicle and engine technologies. This isolated focus ignores the fact that fuels strongly influence both the feasibility of higher standards and the holistic environmental benefits. That narrow view could change in this round, by injecting fuel policy into the discussion for 2022-2025 model years and beyond.

What is the next trend of the industry?

I’m not of the industry, so it’s hard to say. From my perspective, policy drivers will be critical to creating and/or perpetuating market opportunities in the US and around the world.

What is set to be big for biofuels for the rest of the year?

From a US policy perspective, the outcome of the Renewable Fuel Standards negotiations in Congress. 

What represents the biggest threat for biofuels?

Two things in the US:  The current political realities and the new abundance of affordable domestic fossil fuels.

What is the next thing industry should do more of?

I’m not sure it’s the “next thing”, but I think economic competitiveness will be increasingly important. As appetites for financial support wane or funds simply dry up, and as fossil fuel prices remain low due to new supplies and/or lower demand, price competitiveness pressure will increase. The US corn industry has dramatically increased efficiency and lowered costs, but progress must continue. Advanced biofuels will probably need a major breakthrough to compete on a playing field absent large-scale new GHG reduction policies such as cap and trade or carbon taxes.

Vercruse will be speaking on Day Two at 3.45pm of the Biofuels International Conference. She will be talking about the “policy outlook for biofuels in the US”.  

Register now for Biofuels International 2017 for two days of essential learning to network with experts, sharpen your biofuels knowledge and improve your skills, on 4-5 October.