Iowa Congressmen Leonard Boswell has introduced bipartisan legislation to increase the availability of alternative fuels at gasoline stations across the country. The legislation calls for funding a study to find out whether underground pipelines would be a good way to transport ethanol and biodiesel.
The bill, if it passes Congress and becomes law, will direct the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an ethanol pipeline feasibility study to analyze the technological, economic, regulatory and financial issues in transporting ethanol via dedicated ethanol pipelines. This legislation will also direct the energy department to research the technical factors that prevent transportation of ethanol and bio-diesel in existing pipelines.
While I support the ethanol industry, especially the cellulosic ethanol industry, this idea has limited appeal to me. Without doing any analysis it would seem to me that all the ethanol that could be produced could be consumed within 500 miles of its point of production. Cellulosic ethanol can be producd in a much wider area than corn ethanol which reduces the need for pipeline. The ethanol that is necessary as an additive to gasoline, for areas beyond 500 miles, can be moved by rail or truck tanker as is done today. We must look foreword to the production of biobutanol that can be transported in existing pipelines. We will always have a need for some liquid fuels, but as plug-in hybrids and EV's become available the need for liquid fuels will be reduced and we will have the time necessary to develop biobutanol and a distribution network before U.S. petroleum reserves become critical.
According to IEO2007 world production of unconventional liquids (including biofuels, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids), which totaled only 2.6 million barrels per day in 2004, is projected to increase to 10.5 million barrels per day and account for 9 percent of total world liquids supply in 2030. They project that petroleum production will increase enough to produce the balance of 118 mbd of liquid fuels needed by that date.
I do not believe that 109 mbd of petroleum will is possible in 2030, more like 90-95 mgd, but I do believe that plug-in and EV's can be produced in large enough quantities to fill in the gap. I also believe that the production of biofuels could be quite a bit higher than projected by IEO.