Recently, Dr. Richard Newell from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) testified during a Senate Ag Committee Hearing to discuss high gas prices and the role agriculture may play in developing energy sources for America. Newell believes that agriculture could have a very prominent role in the country’s energy production over the next 20 years.
“Starting with a high level overview of the linkages with agriculture and energy, EIA estimates that energy use on farms accounts for about 1 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. In addition to direct farm use energy, agriculture is indirectly affected by energy requirements in the fertilizer industry. Agriculture has also current and potential future role as an energy supplier,” said Newell in his testimony. “Ethanol use in motor vehicles as grown from 1.7 billion gallons per year in 2001 to an estimated 13.2 billion gallons per year in 2010. Other important energy supply opportunities for agriculture include biodiesel, energy sources from waste, and the siting of wind farms on farms with attractive wind resources.”
Listen to Dr. Richard Newell’s testimony here: Dr. Richard Newell's Testimony to the Senate Ag Committee
Newell said that the EIA expects continued tightening in world oil markets over the next two years. particular in light of recent events in North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s largest oil producing region. The organization’s forecast, issued in March, projects retail gasoline prices at the pump will average $3.77 per gallon this summer and $3.56 per gallon for the entire year. This is about 77 cents per gallon higher than last year’s level. Highway diesel prices are expected to be nearly $1.00 per gallon higher than in 2010. This month the EIA issued an updated forecast and called for a 40 percent increase in pump prices this summer.
During his testimony, Newell cautioned that there are regional price variations as well as significant uncertainties in these forecasts. He then went on to forecast what role his agency thinks ethanol might play in the coming years.
“While ethanol production has grown nearly eight fold since 2001, EIA expects slow growth in ethanol production over the next two years with forecast production of 13.8 billion gallons in 2011 and 14 billion gallons in 2012, about 9.9 percent of the forecast volume of gasoline sales in those years,” said Newell.
Although the EPA has granted waivers for the use of E15 in vehicles model year 2011 and newer, the EIA expects both slow growth in E15 and also E85 (as explained in detail in his written testimony). In conclusion, the EIA expects biofuels to grow to 24 billion gallons of ethanol equivalent by 2022 and 39 billion gallons in 2035.