Romney's support of biofuels, bioenergy is too vague

By Erin Voegele | August 23, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a white paper outlining his energy policy this week. In that paper, in order to facilitate private-sector-led development, he said that is would “support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources by maintaining the RFS and eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, or vehicle fleet.” The paper also noted he would “ensure that policies for expanding energy development apply broadly to energy sources from oil and gas exploration, to coal mining, to the siting of wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other renewable energy facilities.”

However, the white paper offers no more specific information on Romney’s position regarding the RFS, biofuels, or renewable energy. The energy policy documentation posted to Romney’s website, on the other hand, says the Obama Administration has had “an unhealthy ‘green’ ‘jobs obsession.”

The document actually states the following: “As for job creation, studies show that “green” jobs might actually hurt employment more than they help it. Green energy is capital-intensive and tends to displace labor. Indeed, the track record in Europe shows that new “green” jobs came at a steep cost. Spain’s experience, for example, reveals that each new “green” job created destroyed 2.2 others. The price tag in subsidies was exorbitant, rising to nearly $1.5 million per job in the wind industry. Even steeper job loss ratios can be found in the United Kingdom, where 3.7 jobs were lost for every new “green” job created. Here in the United States, despite the Obama administration’s wishes, the marketplace is simply not absorbing green-collar workers. Of 3,586 recent graduates of a Department of Labor-sponsored “green” jobs training program, only 466 were able to find jobs. Taxpayer money spent on “green” training, it seems, was wasted.” As an alternative, Romney touts the job opportunities associated with the fossil fuel sector.

However, green jobs are exactly what our industry creates. The rapidly expanding advanced and cellulosic biofuel, biochemical, bioplastic, biomass, biogas and biopower sectors are testament to the fact that the alternative energy sector can—and does—create jobs of many kinds, from highly-skilled research and executive positions, to construction and transportation jobs.

It’s still early in the presidential race. Hopefully Romney will take stronger, more specific positions that will support the bioenergy sector. But considering his position on green jobs, I’m not going to hold my breath.

As disclaimer, I certainly can’t speak for our entire industry—or Biomass Magazine for that matter.  However, I can and will share my personal opinion of this matter.

In my personal opinion, it’s going to be highly difficult, if not politically impossible, for a potential Romney administration to even come close to offering the same level of support to the biofuel/biopower/bioproduct sector that the Obama administration has.

The reason I believe this is simple.

Obama has assembled somewhat of a “bioenergy dream team.” The individuals he selected to lead the USDA, DOE, EPA and Navy are unparalleled in their support of alternative, renewable energy development. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is a long-time supporter of the biofuels industry and rural economic development. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has been a fantastic advocate for the development of sustainable, domestic energy sources. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus had been a steadfast supporter of renewable energy and biofuels, and has articulated to our lawmakers over and over again why alternative energy is so important to our national security. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has stood up for the RFS program again and again as it’s been attacked politically by lawmakers, big oil and special interest groups.

In my opinion, a huge portion of the progress made by the bioenergy sector over the past years can be credited to this administration and their leadership. If our industry is going to reach its full potential, we are going to need that support to continue.  



5 Responses

  1. Cliff Claven



    The current administration dream team is burning through a huge pile of taxpayer green trying to keep the reality of physics and economics from intruding into their dream. Total federal subsidies and tax breaks to energy in 2010: -Oil: $2.8B -Alternative Energy: $14.7B Subsidies and tax breaks per output energy equivalent to a barrel of oil: -Oil: 27 cents (versus oil company corporate taxes and consumer excise taxes that collect $6.55 per barrel in government income) -Coal: 38 cents -Nuclear: $1.71 -Geothermal: $7.52 -Biofuels: $10.46 -Wind: $31.33 -Solar: $59.60 Bottom line: We need to end all these subsidies and stop dragging down our economy by financing the losers and holding back the winners. Time for the hallucination to end and sanity to reign again. (Sources: 1. Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010. Energy Information Agency, July 2011. ; 2. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 'Estimated U.S Energy Use in 2010: ~98.0 Quads.' Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2011 ).

  2. Dean B



    Who do you see as the winners and who do you see as the losers?

  3. Charlie Niebling



    EIA's study only focused on electricity generation. Very little, if any, oil still used in electricity generation. If you include transportation fuels and thermal energy, subsidy ratios to oil increase dramatically. Claven's summary of EIA study is misleading but obviously reinforces conclusion he wants to reach.

  4. Bill Strauss



    I am surprised that the support for business as usual with fossil fuels does not find some objection to the massive quantities of money and jobs that the US "exports" to the nations that supply us with oil for transportation and heating. In the northeast states, at $3.65/gallon, more than $20 billion/year is sent out of the regional economy. Most of the heating oil refined for the northeast comes from petroluem from Mexico and OPEC (primarilay from Venezuala and Saudi Arabia). Only about 21% of that oil comes from our Gulf wells. see To believe that we can fully fulfill our liquid fuels needs domestically is a probably a fantasy. But even if we could, oil is a global commodity and its price will represent global demand not US demand. It will get costly as nations compete. Natural gas may substitute for some of that. But even there the US will enter into the global trade and gas will also get costly. see On jobs: Look to the northern US. Think beyond power generation to how homes and businesses stay warn in the winter. Not with electricity. Of the 9.4 million homes in the northeastern states that do not have natural gas (and most of those never will do to rural locations) most heat with heating oil. The net positive job creation from converting from heating oil to clean, renewable, and sustainable refined fuel made from wood is well documented. Of the 10's of millions of tons per year of wood that is sustainably harvested to make paper, as paper demand declines, the growing energy from natural fiber sector will sustain those jobs and keep our money (and jobs) from being sent away. Regardless of political affiliation, simple logic would suggest support for ending our addition to foreign oil AND stopping the hemorrhaging of our heating oil dollars. Finally, on subsidies, black is much larger than green. see

  5. Mohamed



    10,000 regular check up rqeiures the ff:1. change oil2. change oil filter3. change sparkplugs4. change fuel filter5. clean or replace air filter6. check coolant level7. check brake fluid level8. check transmission fluid level9. check and tighten belts10. check, clean and adjust brakes and clutch11. check brake pad and lining wear12. check performance of air a/c (freon level)13. check tires pressureHope i gave you an idea of the things you need to do.


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