When the US Energy Information Administration released its annual energy outlook pre-release earlier this month, biofuels industry publication Biofuels Digest was hit with six press releases from the biofuels community in the space of two hours. The final version of the EIA's energy outlook through 2040 won't come out until the spring, but the 16-page preview was enough to set off an avalanche of biofuel industry outcry.

The EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2013 projection is less optimistic about the ability of advanced biofuels to take a larger share of the liquid fuels market. For the 2013 forecast, biomass use is expected to reach 4.2 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2035, compared to 5.4 quadrillion Btu listed in the 2012 AEO report.

Still, the longer-term trend is up. The 2013 report thinks that we will reach 4.9 quadrillion Btu in 2040, up from 2011's prediction of 2.7 quadrillion Btu. But why did the forecast drop so far from the 2012 report to the new version? According to the EIA's energy outlook, "The increases are much smaller than those in AEO2012, however, as a result of diminished FFV [flex fuel vehicle] penetration, a smaller motor gasoline pool for blending ethanol, and reduced production of cellulosic biofuels."

The EIA thinks gasoline prices will jump 25 percent – diesel by 37 percent – in 2011 dollar terms.

While biofuel use is expected to be lower than initially anticipated, the AEO 2013 is bullish about growth in other facets of energy production – solar and wind are expected to go up; light crude oil and natural gas are expected to go way up. Sales of FFVs in 2035 are expected to drop to about half what they were in the previous report – 1.3 million, or less than half the 2.9 million FFV sales expected in the 2012 report.

There's bad news in the report for consumers – the EIA thinks gasoline prices will jump 25 percent – diesel by 37 percent – in 2011 dollar terms. If you add in 2.5 percent annual inflation, that will come out to $8.62 per gallon for gasoline and $9.86 for diesel. The cause of this increase is expected to be rising crude oil prices.

Battery electric vehicles also had their numbers diminished – 119,000 units sold in 2035, down 65 percent from the expected numbers in the 2012 report. The EV sales decline is expected to be offset by increased sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, a full 20 percent higher than they were in the 2012 report.

As for Biofuels Digest's take on the situation, the EIA's adjusted numbers for biofuels weren't entirely unexpected. In 2007, there were high hopes for ethanol and biodiesel to take off through a combination of E85 ethanol demand and rising availability of flex-fuel vehicles.

The slow deployment of cellulosic biofuels threw off expectations.

That didn't happen. Rising corn prices made E85 less economical for motorists, and the food vs. fuel battle reduced enthusiasm even further. The slow deployment of cellulosic biofuels threw off expectations that were part of the targets set in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The price of fuel is a key issue – higher blends of ethanol, such as in E15, and developing low-cost biodiesel and renewable diesel for an expanding truck market – could be another tough hill to climb for adoption of biofuels if the prices go up.

If nothing else, the dramatic year-to-year changes in predictions for things three decades away shows that crystal balls are often difficult to read. And the EIA could be wrong about the future of biofuels. It was in a past report. "Keep in mind EIA has a history of grossly underestimating the ingenuity and productivity of the American renewable fuels industry. In its 2001 projections, released just 10 years ago, EIA predicted the U.S. would produce just 2.8 billion gallons of ethanol in 2011 – in actuality, we produced nearly five times that amount last year," said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maybe the next Sandy will focus their minds a bit more.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        Everyone whose cell phone continued to work can thank a fuel cell. The fuel cell back-up power supplies worked flawlessly, even when the grid was in utter chaos all around. "Why are fuel cells a good energy supply during natural disasters? Fuel cells can run as long as the fuel supply (usually hydrogen or methanol) is available. Fuel cells using hydrogen tanks can run for several days before a replacement tank is needed, depending on the size or number of the tanks. While diesel generators also provide long runtimes, their internal combustion engines have more moving parts than fuel cells and require more hands-on maintenance, something that may not be possible during natural disasters. The availability of diesel fuel during natural disasters can also be an issue. Another important advantage of fuel cells is the ability for remote monitoring and control, ensuring standby readiness and quick response, which can be critical." http://energy.gov/articles/calling-all-fuel-cells Decentralized home CHP units could also have provided needed heat and electricity; no doubt many homeowners will consider such systems in the future.
      dbergen
      • 2 Years Ago
      Complete insanity, it still takes at least 29% more fuel to produce biofuel than you get out of it.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dbergen
        same thing for petroleum, except we dont have to pay that price. millions of dinosaurs paid in advance for us. problem is, it is a dwindling resource. we need to produce our own energy storage and thus must pay the conversion inefficiency costs.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Higher gas prices is MUCH MORE INEVITABLE, than CAFE compliance. Most automakers are not done trying to kill CAFE
      diffrunt
      • 2 Years Ago
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmichaels/2012/07/22/a-hungry-world-population-oh-well-let-them-eat-ethanol/
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lets see. Theyre predicting that gasoline prices will rise by 25% between now and 2040. And CAFE will nearly double between now and 2025. So, in 2011 dollars and cents, we go from: ~$3.50/22 miles = 16 cents per mile average To: $4.38/39 miles = 11 cents per mile average
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        Radical Right Wing Extremist Here.... By 2040? This strikes me as pretty optimistic. Assuming china dosnt implode and India keeps growing, you mean 25% is it? This strikes me as a best case scenario. I know they were talking 'scary' but doesn't look bad at all (compared to what it could be. I know they say that they are using data to look at what could happen, but by 2040 some group in the Middle East doesn't finally get a nuke and hit Israel? And then of course, one can expect that Israel might take exception and respond.... Also, call me an optimist (or a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, some daaaaaaaaaayyyyy you will join me, and the world....cough...where was I?), but I would hope that the Toyota battery, IBM's solid state battery, or something might happen in 28 years to change the calculus on this.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          In other worlds, doing nothing on climate change will lead to Human Population Crash. The Al Gore Hickey Stick growth of Human Population, isn't where these type of graph ends. As much as the population increases, so too you will get Just As Rapid a Population Decrease, unless we Do Something.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          Decreased demand caused by global drought and Food Famine.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          As far as I can tell: There's at least four factors working against oil price increases: 1) Increased production from shale oil, tar sands, etc. 2) Decreased demand due to alternative drivetrains such as natural gas, battery-electric, hydrogen, and biofuels (ethanol may not work in the USA, but it works in Brazil). 3) Decreased demand due to Improved building codes requiring more insulation. 4) Decreased demand due to natural gas heating replacing oil heat
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          "I would hope that the Toyota battery, IBM's solid state battery, or something might happen in 28 years to change the calculus on this." It won't take 28 years. Australia, for example, may be running all of their cars on brown coal long befor that: http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/toyota-plan-to-make-hydrogen-cars-in-melbourne-providing-hundreds-of-jobs/story-e6frfkp9-1226530739692
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        So, apparently, its getting cheaper to drive a gasoline powered car.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      The article seems to throw around a bunch of big scary numbers to divert attention from the simple bottom line.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's how CAFE is supposed to work, right?
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is nonsense. Higher gas prices means more electric vehicles. I do believe too, they are not talking about hybrids and PHEVs, and PHEVs are essentially electric vehicles for the people with an anxiety disorder. Personally, I think the oil producers will do everything they can to defend their market. They know that much above $4/gal. and they get hammered by the alternatives. Paying off the GOP to hammer green energy is only going to get you so far. I mean you have to either be stupid or dishonest to intentionally do what is bad for your country like they do, and even the moronic average person catches on eventually. What's that you say "the oil companies don't control our government and we didn't fight the wars for oil"? Sure, you just keep saying that. You'll always find a slave audience to accept the masters dictates. Just make sure you don't convince yourself that the moronic followers of stupidity are the majority. Say for instance, like the moral majority, or the middle of arkansas majority.
        mylexicon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Afghanistan has no oil, but it does have one of the world's biggest lithium reserves. We obviously fought the WOT for batteries.
          brotherkenny4
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mylexicon
          There is way more lithium in the world than is need to turn every car into a 500 mile EV. Oh by the way, Bolivia has the biggest reserves, and they won't make a dime, because we don't need it, they can sit on that until the end of time and it won't be necessary to make electric cars for everyone. The WOT could have been fought by seal team six. But if your GOP you want your military investor buddies to make some money.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mylexicon
          @mylexicon. The fact that after the September 11th, we completely ignored Al queda, going after Saddam Hussein instead, we were at war with Iraq for 8 years, one of the top 3 oil rich countries in the world. Let Al queda fester until they've taken over literally half of Pakistan and Afghanistan and we basically waved our hands at them (relatively speaking), and that not even until Bush left office certainly supports the idea that our military is de facto oil industry hit men. Also Afghanistan has one of the major oil pipelines so it's actually pretty strategic.
          mylexicon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mylexicon
          Yes, and the United States, led by a wildcat Texan with links to the Barnett Shale, spent $1T in hopes of bringing natural gas online to........ummmm..........drive down the value of its own abundant reserves. And the same President went into Iraq to get oil so.........uhhhhhh.......the price of oil would triple and our trade deficit would widen by hundreds of billions of dollars. Play time is over, children. We had a president who believed in the Marshall plan with too much zeal, and who felt compelled to embrace the Marshall strategy after decades of dollar diplomacy and Congressional meddling ultimately led to 9/11. The United States had stupid foreign policy in the region before Bush, and stupid policy continues after Bush. But what is more stupid? Leaving these people for dead, and pretending that they are somehow deserving of less than everyone else? (convenient) or trying to help them repeatedly, though they appear to be completely incorrigible? (inconvenient) It has been said that inconvenience is what wealthy western nations fear the most, and it took 9-11 for us to change our foreign policy. After 3 years without a terrorist attack, we were already bemoaning our decision, and begging for more isolationism and dollar diplomacy. This is a difficult socio-economic problem, not something that can be shoehorned into a half dozen convenient conspiracy theories.
          raktmn
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mylexicon
          Afghanistan’s Natural Gas Afghanistan is a land bridge. The 2001 U.S. led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been analyzed by critics of US foreign policy as a means to securing control over the strategic trans-Afghan transport corridor which links the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea. Several trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline projects have been contemplated including the planned $8.0 billion TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) of 1900 km., which would transport Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan in what is described as a “crucial transit corridor”. (See Gary Olson, Afghanistan has never been the ‘good and necessary’ war; it’s about control of oil, The Morning Call, October 1, 2009). Military escalation under the extended Af-Pak war bears a relationship to TAPI. Turkmenistan possesses third largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Strategic control over the transport routes out of Turkmenistan have been part of Washington’s agenda since the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991. What was rarely contemplated in pipeline geopolitics, however, is that Afghanistan is not only adjacent to countries which are rich in oil and natural gas (e.g Turkmenistan), it also possesses within its territory sizeable untapped reserves of natural gas, coal and oil. Soviet estimates of the 1970s placed “Afghanistan’s ‘explored’ (proved plus probable) gas reserves at about 5 trillion cubic feet. The Hodja-Gugerdag’s initial reserves were placed at slightly more than 2 tcf.” (See, The Soviet Union to retain influence in Afghanistan, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 1988). The US.Energy Information Administration (EIA) acknowledged in 2008 that Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves are “substantial”: “As northern Afghanistan is a ‘southward extension of Central Asia’s highly prolific, natural gas-prone Amu Darya Basin,’ Afghanistan ‘has proven, probable and possible natural gas reserves of about 5 trillion cubic feet.’ (UPI, John C.K. Daly, Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, October 24, 2008)
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      "a smaller motor gasoline pool for blending ethanol" means that we are burning less gasoline in total, so the total number of gallons of ethanol sold in E10 gasoline is also lower. I don't really consider that bad news. That is exactly what higher MPG ratings, electric cars, hybrids, high mpg diesel cars, ride sharing, mass transit, etc are supposed to accomplish in the first place.
      diffrunt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Every station should offer both bio & real , & let the best fuel win. I am very happy that real gas is conveniently available in my area. I hear that bio was really invented to relieve the shortage of silos to store the surplus crops.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      They talk about biofuels since years and years and i didn't see any biofuel for sale anywhere except some gas pump that sold 87 octans gasoline said that it might contain 10% ethanol but these stupids sell it at the same price then regular gasoline. If they want to sell biofuels, then they just have to do it with green algae and sell it at a cheaper price then petrol gasoline and the business will grow. I said many time that im interrested to buy synthetic gasoline at a better price then regular petrol gasoline. If they put something else then petrol gasoline at a better price then they will sell a lot and all the price of biofuels and petrol will go lower up to 40cents/gallon. Postpone any petrol gasoline expenditure( except if you want to go to work, restaurants, uncle joe, travel, cinema, shopping center but drive slow) till they start to sell synthetic butanol at least 1 cents below the price of petrol gasoline.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Depends on where you live http://www.afdc.energy.gov/locator/stations/
      Turbo Froggy
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Battery electric vehicles also had their numbers diminished – 119,000 units sold in 2035". That doesn't make sense, there was already 43,193 plug in vehicles sold this year, up 190% from last years 14,866: http://green.autoblog.com/2012/12/04/november-alt-fuel-sales-stay-solid-with-higher-ford-c-max-nissa/ We might top 100K plug in vehicles sold next year, I see that 119,000 a year sold falling around 2015/2016 maybe. They are also predicting $8.62/gallon for gasoline, even at $5/gallon you can lease a new Leaf for less than you pay for gas in the average 25MPG vehicle already. At $8.62 a gallon that just about makes the payment on a new Tesla Model S compared to driving a Silverado 40 miles to work every day.
        samagon0
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Turbo Froggy
        battery electric, that means not hybrid, but fully electric vehicles. I guess they don't include golf carts in that number, because with those included I'd bet they are already damn near 100k.
    • Load More Comments