July 14, 2009

Biofuels are a long-term renewable solution

The headline of this post comes from a headline in a commentary by Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) that appeared on Politico.

In the commentary, Thune covers two problems with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which expanded the Renewable Fuels Standard and significantly increased the market for biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.

Problem one: The definition of renewable biomass

Thune: Although wood waste from private and federal forestland has the potential to supply millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol, the 2007 Energy Bill excludes cellulosic ethanol produced from wood waste recovered from federal forests and most private forestland. Wood waste built up in our national forests poses a significant fire danger, and increased cellulosic ethanol production would give our nation a way to protect our forests while at the same time generating renewable energy.

Problem two: Theories of indirect land use.

Thune: Study after study shows that ethanol and biodiesel produce much less carbon than gasoline and conventional diesel, and their environmental benefit is a major factor in their success thus far. ... I find it unacceptable that after several years of crafting a national energy policy that promotes renewable fuels, the greatest threats to the renewable fuels industry are arbitrary and misguided government regulations. The United States will not achieve energy independence if Congress both promotes renewable fuels and enacts laws that limit the future growth of our biofuels industry.

Thune concluded by noting that it is important for Congress and the administration to remember that biofuels "present an established, viable alternative to imported oil. Biofuels create jobs, expand markets for farmers and lower greenhouse gas emissions."

He also said Congress and the Administration "can take minor steps to clear the way for major developments in the biofuels industry, and it is time to do so."

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