Copenhagen summit could mean big business for biodiesel

By Nicholas Zeman | November 20, 2009
Posted December 9, 2009

The Copenhagen Climate Change Summit kicked off Monday and it is the largest round of political negotiations involving the environment since the Japanese talks that led to the now famous Kyoto Protocol. Several things are expected to come out of Copenhagen-if not a firm treaty-outlining a carbon pricing or cap-and-trade system. "Any deal that puts a price on carbon is bound to be good for biofuels," said Bliss Baker, spokesman for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance.

The GRFA recently cited a report prepared by (S&T) 2 Consultants Inc. and F.O. Lichts that said "with respect to biodiesel, the forecast global production of 16.4 billion liters (4.3 billion gallons) will reduce GHG emissions by 35.9 million tons."

The combined GHG emissions reduction from global ethanol and biodiesel production of 123.5 million tons represents an average reduction of 57 percent compared to the emissions that would have occurred from the production and use of equal quantities of petroleum fuels, GRFA said. "This is equal to the national GHG emissions of Belgium or Greece, as well as the combined emissions of Monaco, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and Croatia."

Because of biofuels companies' carbon reducing capabilities they might be able to sell credits under a carbon pricing or cap-and-trade system, which of course would boost the economic viability of the biodiesel industry and its counterparts. "This would add to any benefits the biofuels industries would see from increased use and sales," Baker said.

But the certainty of any concrete agreement is shaky. "I expect there will be an agreement to keep talking," Baker told Biodiesel Magazine. "Most of our members (44 countries that represent nearly 65 percent of global biofuels production) are optimistic but holding their breath. Everyone is very curious as to what the larger players like the U.S, China and India are going to do."

A congenial and fast solution to constructing a carbon pricing platform that might be "cap-and-trade" or a similar system is not without opposition. "The biggest industry on Earth doesn't want it to happen, so of course there is resistance," Baker said.

Other highlights of the study, "GHG Emission Reductions from World Biofuel Production and Use," were that global manufacturing surpassed 100 liters in 2009, which is displacing 1.15 million liters of crude oil per day and 215 million tons of GHG emissions regularly. To reach these conclusions analysts utilized a life-cycle assessment approach "to estimate global GHG emissions reduction achieved through the production and use of biofuels from 'cradle-to-grave', including the acquisition of raw materials, manufacture, transport, use, maintenance and final disposal."

The full study can be downloaded at
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