What would it take for synthetic biofuels to significantly alter geopolitics ?

Brazil and the United States lead the industrial production of ethanol fuel, accounting together for 87.8 percent of the world’s production in 2010, and 87.1 percent in 2011. In 2011 Brazil produced 21.1 billion liters (5.57 billion U.S. liquid gallons), representing 24.9 percent of the world’s total ethanol used as fuel.

In 2012, Americans consumed 134 billion gallons of gasoline that contained approximately 13 billion gallons of ethanol (a blend rate of 9.7%), according to the Energy Information Administration. Accounting for ethanol’s reduced energy content per gallon — just 67% of a gallon of gasoline — we can say that ethanol blending displaced 8.7 billion gallons of gasoline last year.

The world consumes over 85 million barrels of oil every day (over 30 billion barrels per year). The USA alone consumes over 20 million barrels per day (over 7 billion barrels per year).

The world uses about 600 billion gallons of gasoline. Getting to 10 to 15% ethanol blends worldwide would mean a 60 to 90 billion gallon market for ethanol. Going beyond that level would mean a shift to flexfuel car engines that could handle more pure ethanol. Synthetic biology can directly produce diesel fuel.

Massive geopolitical altering success with synthetic biofuels even at 25,000 gallons per acre would require about 3,000,000 acres to get to 75 billion gallons per year. This would just over half of US gasoline usage. Shale oil also has some projections where it gets to those kinds of levels or higher. The price for crude oil would get impacted because of reduced demand.

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