BIO urges Congress to invest in advanced biofuels biobased products

By Susanne Retka Schill
It's unlikely the infant cellulosic ethanol industry will meet the 100 million gallon renewable fuels standard in 2010, said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of Biotechnology Industry Organization's industrial and environmental section. "Given the current economic turndown, the progress for commercialization has slowed down," he told a group of reporters in an early April press briefing. "A major federal investment in the entire value chain of advanced biofuels and biobased products commercialization is needed."

Erickson and 10 BIO members representing second-generation technology development firms held the press briefing as the group prepared to visit Capitol Hill to present the following set of six policy recommendations:

›Implement a comprehensive systems approach to advanced biofuels and biobased products deployment that recognizes the need for coordinated end-to-end infrastructure development.

›Inject immediate capital into biorefinery construction, feedstock development and fuel delivery infrastructure through the DOE Biorefinery Loan Guarantee program, the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program and the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and expand biofuel blending facilities, E85 pumps, rail capacity and flexible-fuel vehicles.

›Ensure a strong market for advanced biofuels by maintaining the RFS, addressing the blend wall issue, extending the cellulosic producer tax credit beyond 2011 and funding the U.S. DOE Reverse Auction program.

›Incentivize the full range of biobased products produced by biorefineries by extending programs beyond support for liquid fuels.

›Aggressively fund ongoing research and development to maximize economic competitiveness, sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits of advanced biofuels and biobased products.

›Explicitly incentivize GHG-reducing biotechnologies in climate change legislation such as energy saving biotechnologies, sequestration technologies and yield-enhancing biotech crops. Use allowances or revenues from auctions to aggressively fund existing DOE and USDA programs for advanced biofuels and biobased products.

The group also recommended any evaluation of emissions associated with land-use change uniformly apply rigorously developed and consistent scientific methodology.

Despite the slowdown in commercialization efforts, Erickson was optimistic about the future of the biomass industry. "We're still very bullish about our future," he said.