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____________________________________________________ Obama Gives Biofuels a Presidential Jumpstart
A news article by "Environment News Service", www.ens-newswire.com
To spur biofuels research and commercialization, President Barack Obama signed last Tuesday a Presidential Directive establishing a Biofuels Interagency Working Group. He announced his administration's notice of a proposed rulemaking on a national Renewable Fuels Standard and announced $786.5 million in additional Recovery Act funds for renewable fuel projects.
"We must invest in a clean energy economy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said President Obama. "The steps I am announcing today help bring us closer to that goal. If we are to be a leader in the 21st century global economy, then we must lead the world in clean energy technology. Through American ingenuity and determination, we can and will succeed."
The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will be co-chaired by the secretaries of agriculture and energy and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and will operate in cooperation with the National Science and Technology Council's Biomass Research and Development Board.
The Working Group is tasked with developing the nation's first comprehensive biofuel market development program. It will use existing authorities and identify new policies to support the development of next-generation biofuels, increase flexible fuel vehicle use, and assist in retail marketing efforts.
The Working Group will coordinate infrastructure policies that affect the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels.
And the Working Group will identify new policy options to promote the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production, taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency and water quality, as well as lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.
In his directive, the President called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to immediately begin restructuring existing investments in renewable fuels as needed to preserve industry employment; and develop a comprehensive approach to accelerating the investment in and production of American biofuels and reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.
Secretary Vilsack told reporters on a conference call this morning that the President's directive creates an "exciting opportunity for USDA."
"USDA must stimulate investment, persuade existing biorefineries to convert away from petroleum fuel to biofuels, and it's an opportunity for communities to convert as well," Vilsack said.
"The directive reflects Obama's commitment to rural America, he said. "It will create clean jobs, provide additional income opportunities for farmers and ranchers, energy security for every single American."
"Our responsibility is crafted, directed and shaped not just by this Presidential memo," said Vilsack, "but also by the energy title of the Farm Bill. Resources are available to farmers to audit their operations on the farm. Steps can be taken to convert to biofuels and away from fossil fuels. Once the audits are finished they can apply to USDA for additional resources to convert their operations to renewable energy. We are a financing mechanism for these changes. First doing the audit, then encouraging farms to move away from dependence on fossil fuel will impact footprint of agriculture generally."
To create advanced biofuels like green gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels, the Department of Energy will oversee the $786.5 million commercial biorefinery effort. The biomass program will leverage DOE's national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to help improve biofuels reliability and overcome technical challenges.
The $786.5 million in Recovery Act funding is a mix of new funding opportunities and additional funding for existing projects. More than half the money, $480 million, will fund integrated pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries, and an additional $176.5 million will fund commercial-scale biorefinery projects.
Fundamental research in key program areas will get $110 million and $20 million will be spent for ethanol research.
"Developing the next generation of biofuels is key to our effort to end our dependence on foriegn oil and address the climate crisis - while creating millions of new jobs that can't be outsourced," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. "With American investment and ingenuity, and resources grown right here at home, we can lead the way toward a new green energy economy."
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Lab have been working on developing biofuels made from nonedible plants like prairie grasses, wood chips and harvested corn and wheat leftovers. They are close to achieving a U.S. Department of Energy goal - producing by 2012 cellulosic ethanol cheap enough to compete with conventional gasoline.
The President also announced the EPA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the nation's first Renewable Fuel Standard. This proposal outlines the EPA's strategy for increasing the supply of renewable fuels to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022, as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Four categories of renewable fuels will be established: cellulosic biofuels; biomass-based diesel; advanced biofuels; and total renewable fuel.
In 2022, the proposal would require 36 billion gallons annually of renewable fuels, of which 16 billion gallons must be cellulosic biofuels; and 1 billion gallons must be of biomass-based diesel. At most 15 billion gallons of the renewable fuel mandate can be met with conventional biofuels, including corn-based ethanol.
Increasing renewable fuels will reduce dependence on foreign oil by more than 297 million barrels a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 160 million tons a year when fully phased in by 2022, the administration estimates.
For the first time, some renewable fuels must achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace. Refiners must meet the requirements to receive credit toward meeting the new standards.
EPA also will conduct peer reviews on the lifecycle-analysis methodology and the results for various fuels and feed-source combinations. Lifecycle refers to the greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the fuels.
"As we work towards energy independence, using more homegrown biofuels reduces our vulnerability to oil price spikes that everyone feels at the pump," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "Energy independence also puts billions of dollars back into our economy, creates green jobs, and protects the planet from climate change in the bargain."
Nathanael Greene, director of Renewable Energy Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, "The opportunity to review EPA's proposal will help ensure that developing biofuels won't mean using our most fragile forests for fuel and that biofuels provide real benefits. We plan to submit comments on what EPA has gotten right and what must be improved to make sure the outcome serves our environmental and energy needs."
"We must develop biofuels the smart way, and we are encouraged that EPA Administrator Jackson has offered a science-based proposal to get this done," said Greene. "If we get the rules of the road right through policies such as this one, we can harness the ingenuity of America's farmers, foresters, and entrepreneurs to create a new generation of biofuels that will help create jobs and reduce our dependence on oil."
Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, "President Obama is making clear once and for all that biofuels are critical to the nation's economic, environmental and energy strength. Investments in biofuels, like ethanol, are creating green jobs here at home, reducing America's foreign oil dependence, and helping to meet our environmental goals."
"America's ethanol industry faces an unprecedented set of opportunities as well as challenges," Dinneen said. "Revolutionary new technologies that turn once thought of waste materials into renewable fuel are very close at hand. These technologies will create the kind of economic and green job opportunities, as well as provide cleaner solutions to petroleum use, that President Obama desires."
"Yet, uncertainty remains for many of these technologies as unproven science and questionable logic are being used to penalize existing biofuel producers for carbon emissions occurring halfway around the globe for reasons that may have little, or nothing, to do with U.S. biofuel production," he said.
The ethanol industry is concerned that EPA has attempted to calculate indirect emissions that occur as a result of indirect land use changes from rainforest to biofuels crops, for instance, in the United States as well as internationally.
"The controversial notion of indirect land use changes impacts, including those happening outside the United States, are thought to greatly reduce ethanol's greenhouse gas benefit," said Dinneen.
"We welcome an open and robust science-based discussion of the indirect impacts of all fuels," said Dinneen. "The science of market-mediated, secondary impacts is very young and needs more reliance on verifiable data, and less reliance on unproven assumptions. Done correctly, such an analysis will demonstrate a significant carbon benefit is achieved through the use of ethanol from all sources."