Subcommittee Works to Boost Biofuels Research and Development
(Washington, DC) – Responding to the growing demand for an increased use in biofuels, Members of the Committee on Science & Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy & Environment examined federal efforts to research and develop biofuels and biorefineries.
“Our nation’s energy needs cannot be fully met with fossil fuels alone. Indeed, sole reliance on foreign sources of energy jeopardizes our economy, foreign policy, national security, and most importantly our environment,” said Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX). “While fossil fuels still remain an important part of any viable, balanced energy strategy, we must continue, and in many cases enhance, our efforts to develop alternative energy sources – namely biofuels.”
In recent years, steadily rising gas prices, climate change concerns and calls to become more energy independent have drawn more attention to the use of biofuels. The use of corn-based ethanol has grown significantly under the Renewable Fuel Standard of the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005. Ethanol is most commonly blended with gasoline at a level of 10 percent or less.
Current biofuels, mostly corn ethanol, represent less than 5 percent of total gasoline sold. Expansion of corn-based ethanol leads to concerns about the competition with feed and food supply and water and nutrient demand associated with corn production. Thus, the focus on diversifying biomass sources for biofuel production has shifted to cellulosic materials such as grasses, wood and waste materials.
Earlier this week, Chairman Lampson released a discussion draft of Committee legislation entitled The Biofuels Research and Development Enhancement Act.
The draft measure would:
Provide for a research, development and demonstration program to address inherent problems with transporting and storing biofuels in existing infrastructure;
Create a program to research biorefinery energy efficiency;
Increase funding for biofuels related research;
Establish a grant program for states with low levels of biofuels production to work toward higher levels.
The measure would also direct several studies on increasing consumption of mid-level ethanol-blended gasoline (10%-40% blend); optimization of Flex Fuel Vehicles while running on E-85; and engine durability at differing blend levels of biodiesel.
“This draft will serve as a starting point to discuss what legislative efforts are needed to ensure we maximize the federal funding spent on biofuels research and development,” Lampson said.
Witnesses at today’s hearing included Robert Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association; Thomas Foust, Biofuels Research Director for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; John Berger, Chairman/CEO of Standard Renewable Energy and CEO of BioSelect; David Waskow, International Program Director for Friends of the Earth; and Michael J. McAdams, Executive Director for the Advanced Biofuels Coalition.