Energy and Environment Subcommittee Markup -- H.R. 2773
Opening Statement By Chairman Nick Lampson
While I believe that fossil fuels still remain an important part of any viable, balanced energy strategy, we must enhance our efforts to develop a diverse set of alternative energy sources. Biofuels represent one of our best opportunities to accomplish this.
Though we have seen amazing growth in our country’s biofuels development - mostly in the forms of corn based ethanol and soy based biodiesel - ethanol still represents only 5% of the total gasoline sold, and biodiesel is an even smaller portion of the total diesel market.
Surely, we would not be where we are today without the efforts of those who pioneered the development of our corn-based ethanol industry. But the future of biofuels lies in diversifying the feedstocks to include cellulosic materials such as grasses, wood, and waste materials. Current technologies for the development of cellulosic biofuels continue to be expensive and not yet cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol. Research breakthroughs could bring down costs and greatly increase the process efficiencies, sparking another revolution in the biofuels industry.
H.R. 2773, the Biofuels Research and Development Enhancements Act represents another effort toward reducing our country’s dependence on foreign sources of oil, and building a domestic industry for clean renewable fuels.
The bill has several key components.
The bill creates two focused research efforts within the existing Bioenergy Research Program created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
First, recognizing the inherent problems with transporting and storing biofuels in the existing petroleum fuels infrastructure, this section establishes a program of research, development, and demonstration for modifications and treatments to existing infrastructure and research and development of new infrastructure system for biofuels.
Recognizing the technical barriers to increasing the production of biofuels, the bill also establishes a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application of technologies to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the energy consumption of biorefinery facilities.
The bill will help to better coordinate and compile the rapidly expanding base of information from biofuels research programs by setting up a DOE center to serve as a clearinghouse of information related to the research, development, and commercial applications of technologies related to biofuels and biorefinery technologies.
The bill will provide research grants in states with low rates of biofuels production to work toward the development of biofuels assets.
And the bill will expand the Bioresearch Center program created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, allowing for the establishment of additional, regionally dispersed centers.
The bill also directs the Secretary to conduct several studies. These studies relate to the increasing the utilization of biodiesel; examining the feasibility of mid-level ethanol blended gasoline and the challenges of using such blends; the engine durability associated with use of differing blend levels of biodiesel; and the technical challenges to optimizing the engines of flex-fuel vehicles to more efficiently use E-85.
Last, the bill makes additional commitments to ongoing biofuels research programs by increasing the authorization levels for these programs. This increase will also accommodate the new focused infrastructure and efficiency research efforts I mentioned earlier.
This bill will help to enhance the on-going federal efforts to support biofuels research and development, as well provide necessary information back to Congress that will allow us to make additional research commitments in the future.
I urge the members of the Subcommittee to support the bill and yield back the balance of my time.