Indirect fuel use change (IFUC) and the lifecycle environmental impact of biofuel policies
A common assumption in lifecycle assessment (LCA) based estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits (or costs) of renewable fuel such as biofuel is that it simply replaces an energy-equivalent amount of fossil fuel and that total fuel consumption remains unchanged. However, the adoption of renewable fuels will affect the price of fuel and therefore affect total fuel consumption which, may increase or decrease depending on the policy regime and market conditions. Using a representative two-region model of the global oil market in which, one region implements a domestic biofuel mandate and the other does not, we show that the net change in global fuel consumption due to the policy, which we term indirect fuel use change (IFUC), can have a significant impact on the net GHG emissions associated with biofuel. If LCA-based regulations are designed to account for indirect emissions such as indirect land use change, then we argue that IFUC emissions cannot be ignored. Our work also shows how different policies can affect the environmental impact from adopting a given clean technology differently.
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