Within Earshot of the Oval Office

White House gathering reaffirms Obama’s support for advanced biofuels
By Michael McAdams | April 27, 2012

For more than 100 years, one room in the White House has been the center of policy discussion, debate and decisions for 19 presidents. It might surprise you to learn that room is not the Oval Office but the windowless Roosevelt Room, which was originally the president’s office, built in 1902 as President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the White House. It is important to understand the room’s history and significance as earlier this spring it played a symbolic role in the future of America’s domestic biofuels industry and the greater renewable energy sector.

At a time when Washington is determined to identify smarter investments in clean energy fuels and scrutinizing every federal dollar spent, it was incontrovertible proof of our industry’s successful performance today and its promising future that I joined other renewable energy colleagues as President Obama invited us to participate in a meeting on America’s energy policy at the White House. The meeting included the Secretaries of Energy, Agriculture, and Interior as well as other senior-level administration officials and was held in, you guessed it, the Roosevelt Room, which sits within earshot of the Oval Office.  

I was honored to be included and thrilled to have the opportunity to deliver a message to the president’s team that America’s domestic biofuels industry is no longer assessing hypotheticals of if or when, instead, today, we are now asking, how much do you need? We are moving from the beaker to the barrel, all in record time, without a lifetime of federally subsidized handouts, and delivering advanced replacement fuels that meet on-road standards, with much more to come.

Among those participating that day were leaders of the American Wind Association, the Solar Industry Association and Growth Energy. All of us collectively understood the seriousness of what each of our industries was attempting to do to change the balance of America’s energy portfolio.

As the meeting started, we quickly understood the president asked us to the White House to specifically discuss which policy instruments had been most helpful to our individual industries and what other steps might be taken to further enhance the development of renewable energy and America’s approach to energy security. The wind, solar and advanced biofuels sectors all encouraged the president’s team to continue to send a strong signal of commitment from the federal government in various policy mechanisms that either are in place or have been helpful in the past. A consistent theme was that whatever support policy the government selected, it needed to be extended over a sufficient period of time to allow for the commercial markets to actually take advantage of the provisions.

It was a thoughtful discussion lasting more than an hour and in Washington, that’s equal to a lifetime. The discussion went to the very core of defining energy security and how any country arrives at such a point in its economic activity and the policies it adopts that ultimately achieve that type of independence and flexibility of economic operation. The room was in unanimous agreement that only an all-of-the-above portfolio approach that decreased the use of energy, developed the existing sources of energy and continued to foster, create and deploy new technology innovations, could help us achieve the kind of energy security our nation needs and demands. 

In the past several months, I have heard from many of our readers asking what happened to the president’s support of advanced biofuels. It is a fair enough question, but between the conversation at the White House and his remarks to a packed field house later that week at a local community college, there should no longer be any lingering questions or doubt.

What our industry needs to do now, especially as we inch closer to the height of a presidential election year, is make sure that biofuels does not become a partisan issue. We must act together to help ensure that local and national leaders alike, of all political stripes, understand and support the opportunities that this industry presents today and for the future of our nation. To turn a paraphrase of the president’s remarks, biofuels are no joke!

Author: Michael McAdams
President, Advanced Biofuels Association
(202) 469-5140