Private Sector Investment in Biofuels

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), Big Oil companies have invested $71 billion into zero-emission, low-emission, and renewable energy technologies.  The Federal government, by contrast, has invested about $43 billion during the same period. BP has invested $7 billion in alternative energy since 2005. ExxonMobil is spending $600 million on a ten-year project to create oil from algae. Royal Dutch Shell has invested billions Brazilian ethanol.

Critics note that these sums are dwarfed by total profits and further investments in the continued search for fossil fuels, but, since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard law in 2005, the investments have been significant.  The law currently requires 15 billion gallons of alternative fuels in the nation’s energy mix annually.  In 2022, the requirement will be 36 billion (11% and 27% of the nation’s annual driving consumption).

In part because of the law, oil and gas companies are obligated to make these investments.  But the companies also see the potential for profitable new business lines.

Source:  Bloomberg Businessweek, May 14-20, 2012.