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IEA says 3-fold or greater increase in biofuels possible by 2040

IEA says 3-fold or greater increase in biofuels possible by 2040 thumbnail

The International Energy Agency released its latest World Energy Outlook 2015, saying there are clear signs that an energy transition is under way. The report finds that the plunge in oil prices has set in motion the forces that lead the market to rebalance, and cautions that strong direction is needed from the upcoming United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, COP2.

“It would be a grave mistake to index our attention to energy security to changes in the oil price,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Now is not the time to relax. Quite the opposite: a period of low oil prices is the moment to reinforce our capacity to deal with future energy security threats.”

The World Energy Outlook 2015 examines all energy sectors, looking at global energy trends to 2014, the oil market, natural gas, unconventional gas, coal, power, renewables and energy efficiency, along with a section discussing energy in India today. Each sector is analyzed under three scenarios, with current and new policies, as well as a more aggressive 450 Scenario that would result in greater greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. It also examines the impact of low oil prices.

In the New Policies Scenario, renewables meet around 35 percent of the total growth in primary energy demand, the report says. “By 2040, renewable energy accounts for one-third of total electricity generation, one-sixth of heat demand and more than 5 percent of all transport fuel consumption.” The New Policies Scenario assumes that government support for biofuels through blending mandates generally persists. “Biofuel blending mandates are now in place in around 60 countries and, in the New Policies Scenario, demand for biofuels in transport is projected to triple over the Outlook period, exceeding 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) by 2040.” That would be up from 1.5 mboe/d today and would be 70 percent ethanol, with the remainder biodiesel. The report projects investments in biofuels supply will average $15 billion per year over the period, and remain concentrated in the U.S., Brazil and EU, with some expansion in China and India. That will have plunged from the 2007 high of $27 billion, although higher than the $4.6 billion average per year from 2010-’13.

The 450 Scenario projects the impact of “much stronger policy interventions to address climate change [that] leads to a peak in oil demand by 2020,” the report says. Projections for world biofuels demand under the 450 Scenario call for 2.1 mb/d in 2020 and rising to 9.4 mb/d in 2040. Under that scenario, by 2040 world oil demand drops to 74.1 mb/d.

In 2013, the global biofuels share of total transport fuels is 3 percent. Under the different scenarios, current policies are projected to lead to biofuels rising to a 4 percent in 2025 and 5 percent in 2040. Under its New Policies Scenario the 2025 projections at 4 percent is the same, but the 2040 projection rises to 6 percent. Under the more aggressive 450 Scenario, the 2025 projection if 7 percent and the 2040 projection is 18 percent.

The 718-page report delves deeply into the projections for each scenario in each energy sector. The beginning chapters, however, analyze the findings in light of the upcoming Paris climate change conference. “The WEO-2015 scenarios demonstrate the huge impact that government policies can have on energy-related emissions,” the report says. “The Current Policies Scenario sees the growth in energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions average 1.2 percent per year over the Outlook period, maintaining a broadly consistent pace through to 2040. Total OECD emissions in 2040 are 7 percent lower than 2013 levels, while non-OECD emissions are more than 65 percent higher. The growth in emissions is much slower in the New Policies Scenario, but total emissions still fail to peak by 2040. In both scenarios, therefore, the world moves further away from achieving its agreed 2 degree Celsius climate goal, but at differing speeds.

“In the 450 Scenario, the long-standing trend of increasing energy-related CO2 emissions is quickly halted and emissions then decline by more than 2 percent per year (on average), to stand at around 19 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2040. Key policy and technology drivers that underpin this change in direction include stronger support for renewables deployment in the power sector, CCS (in power and industry), carbon pricing, more rapid reform of fossil-fuel subsidies, and broader adoption and stronger application of energy efficiency policies and low-carbon forms of transport.”

The executive summary and fact sheets are available at the World Energy Outlook 2015 website. The full report can be purchased there as well.

17 Comments on "IEA says 3-fold or greater increase in biofuels possible by 2040"

  1. Davy on Sat, 14th Nov 2015 4:25 pm 

    Damn, I had to read all the way to the end to see who dreamed up this quackery. Of course it’s the ethanol dudes. When I read these articles that are projecting out 25 years I think to myself “self we are in big trouble”. Why, well because time frame disguises failure. 25 years is a lot of failure to cover over.

    First question I am going to ask is how on earth are we going to feed people and grow biofuels capacity? I will drop my pants and whip it out and say we are not. I am not even going to inject a likely, maybe, or hopefully. I am going to say we are not.

    As for renewables it is likely what we have now is roughly what we will ever have. We are going to struggle to cover renewables that are wearing out let alone build out huge new infrastructure. We also need to keep in mind hydro is wearing out and needs serious attention. A significant amount of NUK capacity is nearing its useful life. This article is one hell of an optimistic corn porn advertisement that needs to be ripped apart by ravinous doomers.

  2. peakyeast on Sat, 14th Nov 2015 4:54 pm 

    Its not interesting how much they think it can be scaled up.

    The interesting part is what real EROEI they expect so we can judge how many that has to go hungry so that ignorant blobs of fat can be transported in SUVs.

    Btw. Its a fucking disgrace that SUVs are even allowed to be sold without some proof of the absolute necessity.

  3. penury on Sat, 14th Nov 2015 5:29 pm 

    another flak making his daily bread. Ignorance is not a barrier to having articles printed and it seems like stupid is a requirement.

  4. onlooker on Sat, 14th Nov 2015 5:47 pm 

    Biofuels are a Net Energy drain. Enough said.

  5. Kenz300 on Sat, 14th Nov 2015 9:09 pm 

    Climate Change is real… the sooner we transition away from fossil fuels the better………………

    Electric vehicles, bicycles and mass transit are the future…….

  6. Dredd on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 5:41 am 

    “IEA says 3-fold or greater increase in biofuels possible by 2040”

    Anything is possible. Focus on probable.

    Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’ …

    (The Fingerprints of Victims Matter – 2).

  7. Cloud9 on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 6:53 am 

    When the lights go out a lot of people will be burning wood to cook and keep warm. In the process we will deforest whole regions.

  8. BobInget on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 8:55 am 

    Of course, every mid-western grain growing state has two US senators. Both political parties will be pushing hard for ethanol subsides. Control of the senate is key.

    Strangely enough BOTH liberals and reactionaries would agree privately on ethanol. (it’s wasteful)
    Democrats and Republicans are however more interested in holding on to the White House and Congress and appearances.

    The Republicans are happy to let Democrats take the heat on the coal burning question by simply not supporting cleaner air laws.
    Coal producing states are all Republican for all the wrong reasons.

    Wind and solar are less political because
    large industry (like GE) tend to contribute to both party candidates.

    There are thousands Western Republican
    ranchers happily cashing ‘windfall’ checks
    from either or both natural gas and wind turbines on the land.

    Big corn crops encourage lower pricing just like oil and gas bonanzas. All grains are
    lower in price this season.

    If you looking for the biggest greenhouse gas producers, look no further then corn fed cattle not ethanol.

  9. JuanP on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 11:36 am 

    Juan says the IEA and the EIA are full of shit and all their forecasts stink of it. I find it hard to believe that there are people in this world that are so absolutely ignorant, stupid, and brainwashed that they actually believe this crap.


  10. shortonoil on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 4:35 pm 

    As explained in this post (at the end of the thread) is why the IEA’s proposal to grow renewables is probably not possible:

    As explained above, to maintain the present system it is now necessary to cannibalize the existing structure. This is requiring the formation of a huge amount of debt. Considering the fragility of the present system it doesn’t seem likely that both continuous of a consumable supply, and the build out of large new infrastructure processes is likely. In the frantic attempt to maintain the status quo we appear to have boxed ourselves into a corner.

  11. energyskeptic on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 6:51 pm 

    Who cares about ethanol? It can not be burned in diesel engines, not even as diesohol, and it is trucks, rail, and ships that keep civilization alive. Biodiesel doesn’t scale up, and can harm diesel engines when the concentration is over 20% – commercial truckers won’t touch it lest their engine warranty be nullified, and it has only 90% the energy density of diesel fuel. Locomotives can be stranded, and large ships sunk if a fuel doesn’t work out, so they are wary of biodiesel as well. I explore all this at greater length in my 2016 book “When Trucks Stop Running”

  12. twocats on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 7:38 pm 

    The article is so poorly written its hard to say if it even accurately reflects the IEA World Energy Outlook it purports to cite. Just looking at the projected yearly expenditures on biofuels – they go from 27 billion a year in 2007, to a projected 4.5 billion in the 2010 – 2013 era, and now to $15 billion. So… it will be some number between 4.5 and 27 billion a year. Brilliant.

    I wonder what the report has to say about the massive biofuel inspired fires of Indonesia? The biofuel train not slowing down at all with the weight of that nightmare? Choo-ch-choke-choke

  13. GregT on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 8:16 pm 

    “When the lights go out a lot of people will be burning wood to cook and keep warm. In the process we will deforest whole regions.”

    Only if they already have a wood stove to heat their homes with and to cook their food on, and access to the wood to burn in them. Most people in modern cities have none of the above. Besides, it would be a little bit difficult to deforest entire regions, when people are starving to death. Cutting down trees, sawing, splitting, transporting, and stacking firewood, requires a lot of energy. Even with a cheap reliable source of fossil fuels. Without, not a chance.

  14. makati1 on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 8:38 pm 

    Kenz…where is the money/energy to build the new electric system coming from?

    The squeeze is on. Many alt-energy suppliers will be out of business soon.

  15. makati1 on Sun, 15th Nov 2015 8:54 pm 

    GregT, most don’t think thru to the end of their ‘solutions’ for problems. Most have no idea of what ‘systems’ means.

    I always had a house with a fireplace or a wood stove to fall back on when the electric went out in PA winter storms.

    I bet most here don’t have either and would have no idea where to get a good stove or how to build a working fireplace with a chimney that would not burn down their home. Not to mention annual cleaning, etc. And the use of green wood would be disastrous (creosote and chimney fires).

    I did heat my small log home with wood one winter in the 80s and I spent every Saturday, during Fall, in the mountains cutting down Gypsy-moth killed oaks, not green living trees. With a good, sharp chain saw, I averaged just one 16″ diameter tree per full day, felled, cut, split and then hauled to my home and stacked under protection. Dawn to dusk. Each tree usually lasted about two weeks.

    You are correct, after oil, that will not happen. By hand, you could double or triple the time and work involved and transportation in a cart could not be very far or it will not happen.

    I think the forests are safe from post petroleum man but not climate change.

  16. Joe D on Mon, 16th Nov 2015 3:54 pm 

    “The message from oil services firms is that shale drillers will not simply be able to turn the tap back on again once prices rise. Halliburton said on its earnings call last month that pressure pumping equipment currently sitting idle was being cannibalized for parts while the stuff still being used was being worked to its limits. And the falling backlog of uncompleted wells will also begin to make an impact.”

    Liam Denning, Bloomberg View columnist.

  17. Boat on Mon, 16th Nov 2015 5:14 pm 


    One research article estimated estimated the EIA would be off 300,000 bpd by June 2016 because they see the trend of DUCS being fracked and the backlog being utilized as the reasoning. What will really happen? We’ll wait and see.

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