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IEA says biofuels can displace 27% of transportation fuels by 2050

Highlights

Biofuels have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demandfor transportation fuels by 2050, the International Energy Agency saidWednesday in a report requested by G8 energy ministers.

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The report, "Technology Roadmap: Biofuels for Transport," saiddisplacing 27% of transportation fuels -- particularly diesel, kerosene andjet fuel -- by 2050 would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 billiontons/year. It cautioned that the levels can only be achieved if conventionaltechnologies become more efficient at converting crops, algae and otherorganic material into energy.

Bo Diczfalusy, IEA's director of sustainable energy policy, afterannouncing the findings during an advanced biofuels conference in Washington,said the 2050 target is not unrealistic.

"Of course, it depends on politicians, it depends on economicdevelopment, it depends on technical development," he said. "But it's notcompletely out of the blue."

Diczfalusy said advanced biofuels could start to compete on price withfossil fuels by 2030, unless production costs remain tied to oil prices.

"In the long term, there is no vast cost difference between fossil fuelsand biofuels," he said. "It could even be that the biofuels solution becomesmuch more economic."

Diczfalusy said demand for biofuels would come largely from developedcountries in the first part of the 40-year period and then shift to 70%consumption by China, India, Brazil and other developing countries closer to2050.

"There is a need for international collaborations and standardization,"he said. "There will be a lot of trade going on."

Reaching the 2050 goal would require the production of 65 exajoules offeedstock grown on about 100 million hectares (about 247 million acres), thereport said. Another 80 exajoules of biomass would be needed to generate heatand power for production.

"This poses a considerable challenge given competition for land andfeedstocks from rapidly growing demand for food and fibre," the report said."However, with a sound policy framework in place, it should be possible toprovide the required 145 exajoules of total biomass for biofuels, heat andelectricity from residues and wastes, along with sustainably grown energycrops."

The report sprang from a G8 meeting in Japan in June 2008, when energyministers directed IEA to write a roadmap for reducing carbon emissionsthrough renewable energy policies.

Among the recommendations, IEA said governments should adopt stablerenewable energy policies to increase investor confidence, enact sustainedfunding mechanisms, develop international criteria for land-use policies andavoid erecting trade barriers.

IEA also proposed linking financial incentives with achieving life-cycleemissions savings of greater than half, accelerating research of feedstocksand land availability, and sharing technology between countries.

--Meghan Gordon, meghan_gordon@platts.com