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Inside the Beltway: "Coordinating Efforts, Reaching Out"
by Eric Washburn

Last month, Congress passed the 0 billion economic stimulus bill, known formally as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This bill was filled with billions of dollars for worthy renewable energy projects. Wind, solar, geothermal, and other forms of renewable electricity all were provided with grants, tax credit extensions, and loan guarantees. This makes sense. The world needs to reduce its carbon footprint and these technologies are essential to achieving that goal.

Largely missing from the package were significant new incentives for biofuels. This reflects the fact that anti-biofuels advocates have sufficiently confused the public about the environmental impacts of biofuels, and Congress feels, understandably, that with a tax credit and the Renewable Fuels Standard, it has done all it needs to do to ensure a bright future for the industry.

This occurred in a week in which Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors Corporation released a study that found that the United States could produce up to 90 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2030 – 75 billion of which would come from cellulosic feedstocks like switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, and wood waste.

Ironically, we may never get there if 1) we can’t break through the so-called E10 blend wall, and 2) regulatory agencies continue to try to impose on American biofuels an “indirect land use” greenhouse gas penalty, despite the fact that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that this effect is genuine.

The key to overcoming these challenges will be for our biofuels industry to work together and with others much more effectively. The proliferation of biofuels organizations and individual company lobbyists in recent years can strengthen our efforts to address these challenges, but we at ACE, Growth Energy, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, RFA, BIO, the National Corn Growers, and others working to promote biofuels must do a better job of coordinating our efforts and anticipating the rapidly changing environmental, technological, and economic expectations of American society.

We also need to do a much better job of reaching out to those institutions that have a stake in our future, including environmental groups, the auto companies, and even oil companies, to understand their anxieties and work in concert to address them.

In the last two years, the biofuels industry has won huge victories and suffered serious setbacks. If we can learn from these experiences, become less defensive and more open to change, then we can emerge stronger.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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