Lessons from Biofuels Policy for the CDR Field

UC Berkeley's Max Auffhammer has an interesting new post up about optimal biofuels policy. In his post, Auffhammer cites a 2013 paper from MIT, which shows that a cap-and-trade policy can generate vastly economically- and socially-superior outcomes when compared to other types of biofuel regulations (such as production subsidies and blending mandates).

This insight about optimal biofuels policy is likely quite relevant to the design of policies aimed at advancing the CDR field, as many CDR approaches are closely linked with biofuel production. For example, the only large-scale bio-CCS production plant generating negative emissions today is associated with an Archer Daniels Midland ethanol production facility in Illinois. Biochar made from the waste of dedicated energy crops could provide another source for CDR.

Above: the bio-CCS production facility at an ADM ethanol facility in IL. Source: MGSC

Given the potential for extending biofuels policies to support the development of CDR projects, it is important for CDR advocates to support the most socially- and economically-beneficial biofuels that are politically feasible. Especially given the concerns that large-scale CDR a) costs too much and b) has the potential for adverse land use and other non-climate-related environmental impacts, the CDR field would likely benefit greatly from more optimal biofuels policies.