The Theme of the Month

By Luke Geiver | November 30, 2012

The theme for November is apparently about biomass investment. Two weeks ago I highlighted an energy investment tool offered by the USDA that shows over the last decade, the USDA has invested roughly $1.8 billion in biomass. One week ago, I shared an incident involving a small addition I was asked to make to a wood pellet-to-energy story, an addition that revealed the banking industry’s confidence and eagerness to take part in the industry. This week is once again, all about investor confidence in biomass.

Early in the week, the Senate voted to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the Department of Defense to purchase advanced biofuels at prices, in some cases, greater than a fossil-based alternative. The reaction from the industry was positive and on-theme for the month.

Nicole Lederer, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, said the Senate’s vote helps to drive innovation, private-sector investment and job creation in the biofuel industry, adding, “Now that the market has a clear signal from Washington, that growth can continue.”

From the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo in Houston, Tim Portz, vice president of content and executive editor for Biomass Magazine, captured the positive reaction of Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, through a tweet and photo of McAdams after word broke of the Senate’s vote. Like the ABA, several other groups involved in everything from national security to corn-based ethanol advocacy, also thanked the Senate for its vote.

Then, only a day after the Senate voted to give the DOD the power to purchase advanced biofuels, the Senate did it again. By voting for an amendment issued by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the DOD will also have the ability to invest in the construction of advanced biofuel biorefinieries.

Phyllis Cuttino, director for the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, applauded the move, noting the continued ability the Pentagon will have to invest in the cost-competitive commercial production of these fuels. “This federal investment, matched by private dollars,” she said, “will help reduce the Pentagon’s dependence on foreign oil, protect the fuel budget against oil price volatility and encourage the commercialization of advanced biofuels.”

Again, following the vote, Cuttino wasn’t the only industry advocate to applaud the vote, as the ABA and several other groups issued statements thanking the Senate. For now, it is clear that a majority in the Senate believes in biofuels and the DOD’s ability to continue its link to the industry. I’m not about to predict how the House of Representatives will vote on a similar bill and similar amendments. But, by the time the House does vote, November will be over. Let’s hope the theme of December mimics November’s.