Agencies Unveil Efforts on Biofuels

May 4, 2009 07:00 PM

Pro Farmer Editors

Efforts to move forward an agenda to increase the reliance on biofuels in the United States were announced today by Obama administration officials via a teleconference with reporters, which included the establishment of an interagency group including USDA, the Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to spearhead the effort.

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, according to a release from USDA on the matter.

The efforts. EPA will establish four categories of renewable fuels, some of which would be produced form new sources. To address lifecyle analysis, the EPA said they are soliciting peer reviewed, scientific feedback to ensure that the best science available is utilized prior to implementation. This is part of the Renewable Fuels Standard-2 regulation that has been long awaited.

As for USDA, President Obama has directed Secretary Vilsack to expedite and increase production of and investment in biofuel development efforts by: refinancing existing investments in renewable fuels to preserve jobs in ethanol and biodiesel plants, renewable electricity generation plants, and other supporting industries; and making renewable energy financing opportunities from the 2008 Farm Bill available within 30 days.

These opportunities include:

  • Loan guarantees for the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial scale biorefineries and grants to help pay for the development and construction costs of demonstration-scale biorefineries;
  • Expedited funding to encourage biorefineries to replace the use of fossil fuels in plant operations by installing new biomass energy systems or producing new energy from renewable biomass;
  • Expedited funding to biofuels producers to encourage production of next-generation biofuels from biomass and other non-corn feedstocks;
  • Expansion of Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which has been renamed the Rural Energy for America Program, to include hydroelectric source technologies, energy audits, and higher loan guarantee limits; and
  • Guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation assistance for eligible materials for use in biomass conversion facilities.

The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will develop the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market development program. The increased collaboration between federal agencies will accelerate the production of and access to sustainable homegrown energy options by coordinating policies that impact the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels, as well as identifying new policy options to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production.

The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will also work to develop policies to increase flexible fuel vehicle production and assist in retail marketing efforts while also taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency and water quality, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.

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