Current status of bioenergy development in the United States


Since 1957, the U.S. energy self-sufficiency rate has declined until 2005, when it fell to 69.2%, an all-time low. In recent years, the shale gas revolution in the United States has caused the total domestic energy production to continue to rise, and the primary energy self-sufficiency rate has increased year by year. According to the 2014 World Energy Statistical Yearbook, among the various primary energy consumption in the United States in 2013, crude oil accounted for 37.4%, natural gas accounted for 28.2%, coal accounted for 20.5%, nuclear energy accounted for 85%, hydropower accounted for 2.8%, and renewable energy accounted for 2.6%.

With the onset of the 1970 oil crisis, the U.S. Department of Energy began to consider how to ensure the security and reliability of the energy supply, and clearly pointed out in the new energy development strategy promulgated in 1998, to invest in basic science and new technologies to expand the optional range of new energy in the future. In 2002, Bush signed the “United States Agriculture Act” to encourage the federal government to support the development of the biomass energy industry through procurement, direct investment and project loans. The US Job Creation Act of 2004 provided tax incentives for biodiesel and expanded tax deductions for fuel ethanol. The National Energy Policy Act signed in 2005 regulates renewable fuel standards, clearly stating that the proportion of renewable fuels added to gasoline should be increased year by year. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the “U.S. Department of Energy Strategic Plan”, which confirmed and strengthened the trend of energy policy changes, pointed out the development of renewable energy, research and development of alternative energy, and created a diversified energy pattern, and vigorously develop clean energy based on natural gas and nuclear energy. In the 2007 U.S. State of the Union address, a new energy strategy was proposed. The United States would reduce its dependence on imported oil and significantly increase its strategic oil reserves. On February 19, 2013, the “US Clean Energy Security Act” was passed, requiring that by 2020, at least 12% of the electricity sector’s power generation should come from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. At the same time, the bill also stipulates that the United States will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% on the basis of 2005 by 2020, and reduce it by 83% by 2050, while increasing the use of clean energy such as biomass, wind, and solar energy. The U.S. government will invest $150 billion in the next 10 years to fund research on alternative energy sources, including ethanol fuel, and research and development of hybrid fuel-powered vehicles.

In 2014, U.S. investment in wind, solar and renewable energy was as high as $250 billion. In the five years from 2009 to 2014, the average annual sales of renewable energy in the United States rose 49%, while sales of oil, natural gas and coal rose only 94%. Renewable electricity generation in the United States climbed to a record 2.52 million kWh in 2013, while oil generation fell to 13 million kWh, an 88% drop from 2003 levels. From the perspective of development trends, the sustainable development of the renewable energy industry will reduce its production costs, and the world economy’s demand for oil will also continue to decline. The US bioenergy policy is mainly based on three considerations. As the country with the largest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, the position and measures of the United States in addressing climate change have important implications for the international community.

(1) Improve the existing energy consumption structure and reduce the dependence on oil imports

The per capita oil consumption of the United States ranks first in the world, and the demand continues to grow rapidly. Taking into account energy security, it is necessary to change the current energy consumption structure and develop towards energy diversification and clean energy. The United States has developed agriculture, sufficient supply of biomass energy raw materials, low cost and relatively stable, huge development potential and broad market prospects. In terms of energy equivalent, biomass energy is second only to coal, oil and natural gas, with abundant and renewable reserves. Among all new energy sources, biomass energy has great compatibility with modern industrial technology and modern life, and has a strong ability to replace conventional energy. This is the basic starting point of US energy policy.

(2) Reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve the ecological environment

In the use of biomass energy, a large amount of carbon dioxide will not be produced, and green plants also absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which can significantly reduce air pollution and acid rain. The development of biomass energy and the replacement of coal with biomass fuel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions: the replacement of fossil fuels with biomass fuels can reduce the pollution of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere. All of these will make great contributions to improving the energy structure, improving the efficiency of energy utilization, and reducing the pressure on the environment.

(3) Increase the income of the U.S. agricultural sector

The United States ranks first in the world in corn production and export. The United States accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s corn production and about 60% of the world’s corn exports. Therefore, the development of the corn ethanol industry can effectively increase the income of American farmers.

To encourage U.S. farmers to diversify corn, the U.S. government also gave farmers a 51-cent subsidy per gallon of fuel ethanol and imposed a tariff of 54 cents per gallon of fuel ethanol on imported fuel ethanol. According to the “Energy Policy Act” of the United States, it is planned that by 2010, the United States will use nearly 30% of the grain to produce bioenergy, and by 2022, the use of bioenergy in the United States will reach 36 billion gallons. In a report published on January 10, 2007, the United States proposed a goal of ensuring 20% of the gasoline market for ethanol fuel by 2027. Achieving this goal will generate $110 billion in economic growth, save $50 billion in oil imports, and create 2.4 million jobs. The promotion of bio-energy strategy in the United States can be said to serve multiple purposes. It not only supports food prices, increases agricultural income, resolves the contradiction of food overproduction, reduces the financial burden, but also achieves the basic goals of US agricultural policy.

The United States is a big agricultural country, and the output of agricultural products greatly exceeds the demand of its domestic market. The US grain output accounts for more than 36% of the world’s total output, and the output of corn (40%) and soybean (50%) ranks first in the world. Since the Roosevelt administration, successive U.S. administrations have promoted the price of agricultural products to increase across the board by promoting the consumption of agricultural products, in order to increase the income of the U.S. agricultural sector. At present, the main raw material of alcohol is Yulai, and the main raw material of biodiesel is soybean oil. In 2012, the U.S. consumed 12.5 billion tons of corn to produce ethanol, 34 million tons more than the world’s total corn exports that year. U.S. bioethanol gasoline accounted for about 10% of the total gasoline consumption.

The bioenergy policy of the United States not only ensures the diversification of its own energy, but also raises the world food price, which has a certain impact on the world food security and price system. Since the United States is the world’s largest grain producer and exporter, the development of the ethanol industry in the United States not only drives up the price of corn, but also promotes the price rise of other grain varieties through the relationship between prices.

From a global perspective, there are still many countries in the world where people are starving, but the United States uses the largest corn to produce fuel ethanol, and the new energy bill in the United States is also controversial.

In recent years, the price of international agricultural products has fluctuated due to the influence of non-traditional factors such as biomass energy industry and speculative capital. Since some bioenergy industries use crops as raw materials, the development of biomass energy has greatly increased the non-traditional demand for agricultural products, and the price channel between the international grain market and the energy market has been opened up, making the agricultural product market increasingly affected by changes in the energy market. Traditionally, the international bulk agricultural product market is a quasi-monopoly market, and 70% to 80% of the world’s bulk agricultural product trade is controlled by a few international multinational companies. For example, multinational companies and futures markets in the United States have a strong voice in the international bulk agricultural product market, and the development of biomass energy has further enhanced the ability of major grain exporters to control the trade in bulk agricultural products. The United States has promoted the diversification of the country’s energy structure through the large-scale production of biofuels from food. At the same time, it has further strengthened the influence of the United States on the international agricultural product market.

So, what is the current status of bioenergy development in the EU? If you want to know, please review the previous article.