Pace-Led Team Finds That New York Sources of Sustainable Biofuel Could Help Decrease Greenhouse Gas Pollution, Create Jobs, and Increase Energy Security

WHITE PLAINS, NY (June 7, 2010) – A report issued by a team led by Pace Law School’s Energy and Climate Center provides insights into possible future liquid transportation solutions. Use of biofuel made from wood, grass and other forms of biomass could reduce New York State’s gasoline consumption by as much as 16% of projected use in 2020 and play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

Produced at the recommendation of Governor David Paterson’s Renewable Energy Task Force, the “Renewable Fuels Roadmap and Sustainable Biomass Feedstock Supply for New York State” (Roadmap) was developed to help guide state policy on renewable fuels.  The project was undertaken with funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

To conduct the study, the Pace Energy and Climate Center assembled a team of the leading authorities on biofuels throughout the Northeast, including researchers from Cornell University and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and from consulting firms on energy and environmental issues such as Energetics, Energy and Environmental Research Associates, and Antares Group.  The coalition known as Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management as well as Cornell Cooperative Extension branches throughout New York State were also members of the Pace-led team.

The Roadmap evaluates the future of liquid biofuel production and feedstock supplies (materials used to produce the biofuels) for transportation purposes in New York State in order to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as achieve greater independence from petroleum usage.  In Executive Order No. 24 issued in August 2009, New York adopted a goal of achieving an 80% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, or an 80 by 50 target.  The Roadmap presents a snapshot of New York’s current biomass production, including agricultural products and forest products, as well as existing biomass feedstock inventory.  The Roadmap also considers land use issues, transportation and distribution infrastructure, competing uses for biomass, and technologies that are necessary to convert feedstocks to biofuels, for example, grasses or woody material to produce ethanol or soy to produce biodiesel.  In its analysis, the Roadmap examines the potential effects of increased use of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel on economic development, the environment, and public health.

“The Roadmap sheds light on important aspects of how New York’s transportation infrastructure will develop,” stated Jamie Van Nostrand, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center.  “In order to achieve an 80 by 50 target, we need to transition the transportation sector away from carbon-emitting fuels, either through electrification or use of renewable fuels.  Given the time it will take to transition to electric cars and to build the electrical grid infrastructure necessary to power this new fleet, ethanol-gasoline mixtures will still be a necessary component of this transition.”

“There is no silver bullet for ensuring New York’s clean energy future,“ according to Zywia Wojnar, Research Director at the Pace Energy and Climate Center, and Roadmap Project Manager.  “Biofuels could be an integral part of the fuel mix that is necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions, while reducing dependency on fossil fuels.  The Roadmap provides important insights into just how a New York biofuels industry could help meet those goals.”

Some of the key findings include:

Based only on in-state feedstocks (e.g., perennial grasses, woody biomass, and soy from which biofuels are produced), New York could provide 5.6 – 16% of estimated 2020 gasoline consumption by the residents of New York State.

Biomass-based liquid fuels, or biofuels, potentially can play a large role in reducing the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases, which are a leading contributor to global warming.  A new industry that makes cellulosic biofuels from feedstocks grown in a sustainable manner has the potential to decrease GHG emissions by between 67% and 85% compared to the equivalent energy content of petroleum fuel.

Potentially negative environmental effects from the production of biofuels in New York State include deteriorated air quality, soil erosion, impaired water quality, acidification of water and soil, and reduced biodiversity.  Implementing appropriate best management practices in growing and harvesting the feedstocks would minimize some of these adverse effects.

Compared to fossil fuels, in a total life cycle analysis of cellulosic biofuels from sustainable feedstocks, levels of certain air pollutant emissions may be reduced, such as sulfur oxides and benzene. Levels of other pollutants may increase, such as nitrogen oxides, aldehydes, and particulate matter.  Increased emissions of some air pollutants may lead to increased public health concerns such as cardio-vascular diseases.

Four centralized large-scale or 24 smaller-scale biofuels product facilities could operate with sustainably available biomass in the State.

An assessment of the current technologies to convert biomass to advanced biofuels suggests that the industry is five to ten years away from commercial production.

Depending upon the rate at which the biofuels industry grows, between 4,000 and 14,000 jobs could be created state-wide.

Establishing a sustainable biofuels industry based upon the information provided in the Roadmap will require the adoption of new policies by New York State lawmakers.

Annual updates to the Roadmap report will be prepared in 2011 and 2012 in order to address technological improvements and policy developments.

A copy of the Roadmap can be found at www.law.pace.edu/energy/programs.

The Energy and Climate Center is an integral part of Pace Law School’s environmental law program, which regularly is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top environmental law programs.  For more than 20 years, the Energy and Climate Center has been a leading multi-disciplinary organization in the areas of environmental research and policy on energy issues in New York and throughout the Northeast, while training law students in these areas. www.law.pace.edu/energy

Founded in 1976, Pace University School of Law has nearly 6,700 alumni throughout the country and the world. It offers full- and part-time day and evening JD programs on its White Plains, NY, campus. The School also offers the Master of Laws in Environmental Law, Climate Change Law, and in Comparative Legal Studies as well as an SJD in environmental law. The School of Law is part of a comprehensive, independent, and diversified University with campuses in New York City and Westchester County. www.law.pace.edu

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