Biofuel Mandates: Out of Sync With The New Transportation Landscape
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Biofuel Mandates: Out of Sync With The New Transportation Landscape

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The following content is sponsored by AFPM

Biofuel Mandates: Out of Sync With The New Transportation Landscape

Biofuel Mandates: Out of Sync With Transportation Landscape

In 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was enacted so that transportation fuel like diesel and gasoline will contain renewable fuel. The motives behind this were to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil markets, improve climate initiatives, and bring gas prices down.

However, over time it became evident that the forecasts that the RFS was built on were largely incorrect. This infographic from AFPM dives into the world of biofuel and breaks down why the current policies are out of sync with modern transportation.

But before we begin, let’s first explore the basics of biofuels.

What Is Biofuel?

Biofuel is transportation fuel derived from biological resources, like plants. This is in contrast to fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel, which are made up of nonrenewable petroleum. In addition, biofuels break down into conventional biofuels and advanced ones.

Conventional biofuels are any fuel derived from starch feedstocks like corn and grain. In fact, ethanol derived from corn represents one of the largest components of the biofuel market in America. For instance 97% of gasoline in the U.S. contains ethanol and 94% of that ethanol comes from starch in corn grains.

Advanced biofuels are second generation biofuels. They’re considered more complex, and come from non-food biomass like plant materials and animal waste. More advanced technologies are required to extract fuel from these resources. However, the impact on the food chain is minimized.

Here are two examples of advanced biofuels:

  • Biomass-based diesel: A diesel fuel substitute made from renewable feedstocks
  • Cellulosic biofuel: Fuel that is often derived from cellulose or other non food-based renewable feedstock

The Ethanol-Gasoline Dilemma

Since the 1990s, the amount of ethanol in gasoline has creeped upwards of 10% from less than 1%. This is a problem that stems from gallon specific mandates. As the amount of gasoline consumed in the U.S. declines, ethanol’s portion of the fuel mix represents a larger portion of the overall pie.

YearEthanol consumption (billions of gallons)Ethanol consumption (% of motor gasoline)
202012.6310.02%
201513.959.9%
201012.869.3%
20054.062.9%
20001.651.3%
19951.321.2%
19900.750.7%
19850.620.6%

The bulk of automobiles on U.S. roads as well as water-born engines have what’s referred to as an ethanol limit—the highest ethanol blend a vehicle can safely be fueled with. E10, which is 10% ethanol, is the recommended limit for most existing cars today. And filling up with anything higher may lead to corrosive damage, extensive repairs, and engine failure.

We Have A Problem: Biofuel Mandates Are Too Big

The 10% limit is an issue most didn’t anticipate at the time the RFS came to be, and here’s why things are going awry.

RFS mandates are out of touch with supply and demand dynamics. Biofuel and ethanol consumption in America is near all-time-highs with some 12 billion gallons consumed in 2020. At the same time, gasoline demand is some 30 billion gallons below the forecasts when the RFS passed.

What’s more, this is leading to unintended consequences and ineffective business practices:

  • First, a surge in advanced biofuel imports is occurring. Given the RFS mandate requires more ethanol than the U.S. gas supply can absorb, refiners are forced to pay hefty fees for advanced biofuels from foreign markets. In 2020, the cumulative cost stood at a staggering $5.3 billion, nearly 15x the amounts imported in 2011.
  • Second, these exorbitant import costs are being passed on to consumers in the form of higher fuel costs. For example, the RFS obligations have led to an average 20 cent per gallon increase in 2021.
  • Third, fuel manufacturers are paying billions of dollars in compliance credits to satisfy the RFS’ obligations. In many cases, this expense is greater than total labor and wages expenses and threatens to make businesses in this space anti-competitive.

Reform: Bringing RFS Mandates In Line With Reality

When congress passed the RFS in 2005, few, if any, could have predicted the state of energy markets today.

Key projections like increasing fuel consumption and decreasing domestic crude oil production failed to transpire. As a result, the RFS needs to undergo urgent reform in order to be better aligned with the realities of modern gasoline and diesel markets.

For more information, visit afpm.org

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

ESG controversies can damage a company’s value, but ESG data may be able to help manage this risk. What are other reasons for using ESG data?

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

Data is key to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) revolution. Access to granular ESG data can help boost transparency for market participants. Unfortunately, 63% of U.S. and European asset managers say a lack of quantitative data inhibits their ESG implementation.

Being clear on the potential application of this data is equally important.

  • Investors and banks can use ESG data for risk assessment, to spot opportunities, and to push companies for change.
  • Companies can publish their own ESG data, quantify progress on their ESG goals, and use data to inform decisions.
  • Policymakers can use ESG data to inform regulatory frameworks and measure policy effectiveness.

This graphic from ICE, the second in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores four primary motivations of ESG data users.

1. Right Thing

The objective: Having a positive social or environmental impact.

For investors, this can involve screening out companies that conflict with their values and selecting companies that align with their ESG objectives.

As another example, it can involve comparing the social impact of municipal bonds. One way investors can measure social impact is through scores that quantify the potential socioeconomic need of an area, using metrics like poverty and education levels. Here are the social impact scores for three actual municipal bonds issued in Florida.

StateBond IssuerSocial Impact Score
(Higher = larger potential impact)
FloridaIssuer #176.5
FloridaIssuer #266.6
FloridaIssuer #343.2

Issuer #1’s bond is projected to have a community impact that is nearly twice as high/positive as Issuer #3’s bond.

For companies, doing the right thing can include assessing their progress on ESG goals and benchmarking themselves to peers. For example, gender and racial representation is a growing area of focus.

2. Risk

The objective: Managing ESG risks, such as climate and reputational risks.

For investors, this can involve back-testing or analysis around specific risk events before they materialize. Here are the risk profiles of two actual municipal bonds in California. The shown bonds are practically identical in many ways, except their wildlife score.

 Issuer #1Issuer #2
Current Coupon Rate5.0%5.0%
Maturity DateAug 01, 2048August 01, 2048
S&P RatingAAAA
Price to Date (Call Date)Aug 01, 2027Aug 01, 2027
Price122.0122.0
Yield1.0%1.0%
Wildfire Score (Higher = more risk)3.62.7

Managing ESG risk can also involve analyzing a company’s policies and governance for weaknesses. This is important as an ESG controversy can have long-lasting effects on the valuation of a company.

In one study, companies with ESG controversies dropped more than 10% in value relative to the S&P 500. They hadn’t fully recovered a year after the incident.

3. Revenue

The objective: Targeting outperformance through ESG analysis.

Selecting companies with strong ESG data can align with long-term growth trends and may help boost performance. For heavy emitting industries, research indicates that European companies with lower emissions trade at much higher valuations. The chart below shows companies’ price-to-book ratio relative to the Stoxx 600* sector median.

 UtilitiesEnergyMaterials
Above Median Emission Intensity (Bad)1.91.12.0
Below Median Emissions Intensity (Good)2.71.92.1

*The Stoxx 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 17 countries of the European region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Energy companies with low emissions trade at a valuation nearly two times higher than energy companies with high emissions.

4. Regulation

The objective: Understanding and complying with relevant ESG regulation.

The International Sustainability Standards Board has announced a global reporting proposal aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In addition, a growing number of jurisdictions will require organizational reporting that aligns with the TCFD.

  • Brazil
  • European Union
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Not only that, a European Union regulation known as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) came into effect in 2021. It seeks greater transparency in disclosures from firms marketing investment products. Even firms located outside the EU could be impacted if they serve EU customers. In total, the market cap of these non-EU companies exposed to SFDR amounts to $3.2 trillion.

Matching ESG Data with Motivation

There will be growing demand for transparent data as ESG investing flourishes. To remain competitive, investors, policymakers, and companies need access to ESG data that meets their unique objectives.

In Part 3 of the ESG Toolkit series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at key sustainability index types.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

In a world that generates 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Here are some strategies to help guide zero waste policies.

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How-to-achieve-zero-waste

The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

Many cities have set ambitious zero waste targets in the upcoming decades.

The idea is to have communities where waste generation is avoided, and products are shared, reused, or refurbished.

This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows the main strategies and hierarchy to guide zero waste policies.

What is Zero Waste?

In a world that generates approximately 2 billion tons of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Thus, countries and cities are increasing efforts to reduce or even eliminate waste when possible.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “the conservation of all resources  by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Becoming a zero waste community, however, is a complex task.

Currently, Sweden recycles 99% of locally-produced waste and is considered the best country in the world when it comes to recycling and reusing waste. However, such results only came after almost 40 years of recycling and reuse policies.

In line with this, here are seven commonly accepted steps you can use to achieve zero waste:

1. Rethink, Redesign Products

The global population consumes 110 billion tons of materials each year, but only 8.6% is reused or recycled. In a zero waste society, single-use products are avoided and products are designed with sustainable practices and materials.

2. Reduce

Consumption must be planned carefully to reduce the unnecessary use of materials. Consumers must choose products that maximize the usable lifespan and opportunities for continuous reuse. Companies must minimize the quantity and toxicity of materials used.

3. Reuse

The value of products is maintained by reusing, repairing, or refurbishing for alternative uses.

4. Recycle

Products are diverted from waste streams and recirculated into use. Resilient local markets are developed, allowing the highest and best use of materials.

5. Material Recovery

Component materials like cement, metals, or asphalt are recovered from mixed waste and collected for other applications.

In the U.S. alone, around 12 million tons of asphalt shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap are generated from roof installation each year. Currently, more than 90% of this is discarded in landfills. This material can be repurposed to create new products like liquid asphalt, fiber, and aggregate.

6. Residuals Management

Waste is biologically stabilized and sent to responsibly managed landfills.

7. Unacceptable

The production of materials that are not recoverable and can negatively impact the environment must be avoided.

Reducing our Climate Impact

Reducing, recycling, and recovering materials can be a key part of a climate change strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging.

Even though 100% zero waste may sound difficult to achieve in the near future, a zero waste approach is essential to reduce our impact on the environment.

Northstar Clean Technologies aims to become the leading recovery and reprocessing company for asphalt shingles in North America.

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