May 17, 2013

Implications of Market-mediated Emissions and Uncertainty for Biofuel Policies

Time

1:40 - 3:00pm

Location

1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village

Speaker(s)

Dr. Richard Plevin, Research Scientist, NextSTEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways) Program, UC Davis

Abstract

Please note that this week’s seminar was not webcast or recorded

Biofuel policies affect global agricultural and oil commodity markets, whose response has consequences for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Estimates of the net GHG impact of biofuel policies are wide ranging and shrouded in uncertainty. We perform a Monte Carlo experiment using a stylized model of the global liquid fuel market and compare different biofuel policies with respect to global GHG emissions and global oil consumption taking ILUC emissions into consideration. We find that for the currently commercial biofuels, inclusion of ILUC emissions as part of the policy rating of biofuels’ GHG intensity: (i) likely leads to lower emissions; (ii) leads to greater reduction in both domestic and global oil consumption; (iii) leads to higher price of fuels in the home region; all compared to when ILUC emissions are excluded from the policy rating; and (iv) does not, however, ensure that emissions absolutely decline, owing to fuel market effects, which, unlike ILUC, are presently excluded from all existing fuel GHG regulations. Sensitivity analysis suggests that ILUC emissions and the price elasticity of oil supply are the greatest contributors to variance in net global GHG emissions under any given policy.

Biographical Sketch

Richard Plevin joined ITS Davis as a Research Scientist in January, 2013. Prior to that, he was a Research Engineer in the Transportation Sustainability Research Center in ITS-Berkeley. Rich’s research is focused on techniques to estimate and understand the climate effects of transportation and transportation fuels and policies to mitigate these effects. His research interests include life cycle assessment methodology, the climate effects of bioenergy, the representation and communication of uncertainty, and extending LCA toward integrated (energy-economy-environment) assessment modeling. Rich has been involved in the development of California’s LCA-based Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) since late 2006 and was a member of the expert workgroups on greenhouse gas emissions and indirect land use change of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. He is a contributing author to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change in the areas of transportation fuels (along with Lew and Dan), and bioenergy. Richard completed his Ph.D. in the Energy and Resources Group in 2010. He holds MS degrees from UC Berkeley (Energy and Resources Group, 2006) and Yale University (Computer Science, 1982), and a BS in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (SUNY Albany, 1981). He was a software engineer and entrepreneur for over twenty years before starting at ERG in 2004.