What Happened to Biofuels? Review of Biofuel Costs and Evolution in the U.S.

Freight contributes 17% of transportation carbon emissions, a share that is expected to increase. Zero Emission Vehicles for heavy duty applications could prove challenging and the sector might need to rely on low carbon biofuels to meet decarbonization targets and, ideally, criteria pollutant reduction. Biofuels will play an important role in a sustainable freight future; indeed, they will be key in decarbonizing the “last 20%” of transportation (freight, shipping and aviation). Low carbon biofuels, however, have not scaled to significantly penetrate trucking. Costs of producing advanced biofuels have not decreased as envisioned by analysts and, despite aggressive policy incentives, have not transitioned to a lower cost mature industry. Information about the cost dynamics and slower industry emergence is of major interest to policymakers and others seeking to understand the likely success (and cost) of incentive programs. Researchers propose a white paper to provide needed context on biofuel supply cost estimates for this discussion. The research team will compare literature for particular biofuel technology pathway costs against current biofuel pathway trends and models. Additionally, they will put cost estimates and assumptions on a comparable footing, detail estimates’ reliability and appropriateness given research context, and make recommendations for reconciling major discrepancies and filling major gaps.


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