Report Reviews Options for Integrating Biofuels More Efficiently into Climate Policy

November 14, 2009

Christopher Galik, 919/681-7193,, or Tim Lucas, (919) 613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – Biofuels can play a strong role in comprehensive U.S. climate policy, but only if lawmakers first pay careful attention to a cross-policy interactions and other unintended consequences, according to a new Duke University analysis.

“While biofuels policies that are already on the books have for years been targeted to achieving varied objectives, like encouraging production or promoting rural development, they tend to be inefficient – sometimes even detrimental – in terms of addressing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Christopher Galik, research coordinator at Duke’s Climate Change Policy Partnership (CCPP). “The question is how to best harmonize these existing policies and objective with comprehensive climate legislation.”

Galik is lead author of the new CCPP report, “Integrating Biofuels into Comprehensive Climate Policy: An Overview of Biofuels Policy Options.”

Based on an in-depth analysis of policy and scientitic literature, the report examines a wide range of existing biofuel policies from a greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation perspective. It provides decision makers a range of options for more efficiently evaluating and incorporating biofuels into an optimal GHG reduction strategy.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The collective impact of biofuels policy must be considered when designing climate policy, in order to reduce redundancy and conflict, and create an optimal GHG reduction strategy;
  • Creation of a carbon price can provide a price signal favoring the production and use of lower-GHG-intensive fuels, but attention must be paid to accounting structures to avoid unintentionally encouraging increased emissions in uncapped areas of sectors;
  • Other biofuels policies – mandates, pricing incentives, enabling policies and constraints – may play a role in comprehensive climate policy but are inefficient in achieving GHS emissions reduction in and of themselves;
  • A great deal of coordination will be required to integrate biofuels policies into any final comprehensive climate policy.

CCPP is an interdisciplinary partnership of Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Nicholas School of the Environment and Center on Global Change. CCPP researches carbon-mitigating technology, infrastructure, institutions and systems to inform lawmakers and business leaders as they lay the foundation of a low-carbon economy.

Galik wrote the new report and brief with co-authors Craig Raborn, a transportation analyst at CCPP; Wyley Hodgson, a graduate student pursuing concurrent Master of Environmental Management (MEM) and Master of Business Administration degrees at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Fuqua School of Business; and Patrick Bean, a recent MEM graduate of the Nicholas School.