Congress and Cellulosic Biofuels: Opportunities and Risks

Forest Landowner

September 2008

Recently, the World Bank issued a report claiming that the demand for biofuels in Europe and the United States is responsible for raising world food prices by 75 percent. This is only the latest in a string of critical reports that have diminished the original enthusiasm for biofuels as a solution to America’s domestic energy security and global climate change challenges.

Supplying more than 6.5 billion gallons to the country’s gasoline supply in 2007, corn-based ethanol constitutes the current U.S. biofuel industry. But concerns that ethanol raises food prices underscores that there is an upper limit to how much we can continue to rely on corn as the dominant feedstock of the biofuel industry. In fact, that limit is likely to be reached within the next few years. With its ability to convert a wide range of feedstocks, suitability in all regions of the country and low carbon outputs, cellulosic biofuels — agricultural waste, grasses, municipal solid waste, wood and wood waste — have the potential to leapfrog corn ethanol and emerge over the next decade as a major transportation fuel source. Government is taking notice.

At the federal level, Congress has recently put policies in place to help this young industry grow and succeed, and has begun to lay out the policy roadmap for this industry next year with a new Congress and Administration.

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Reprinted with permission by the Forest Landowners Association. www.forestlandowners.com