Sustainability agenda a biofuels risk – USDA

27 February 2008 16:13  [Source: ICIS news]

ORLANDO (ICIS news)--The US biofuels industry must guard against political agendas on sustainability that would "throw artificial barriers" in the way of progress, a senior US Department of Agriculture (USDA) official said on Wednesday.

Thomas Dorr, USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development, cited moves to impose or tighten biofuels sustainability rules in the EU and in some of the language in the Farm Bill being prepared by the US Congress.

"Do not allow life-cycle analysis to become a stalking horse for paralysis," Dorr told the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando.

The official was referring to the concept of measuring the total carbon footprint of biofuels, from seed to burned fuel.

Dorr said those seeking to put the brakes on biofuels progress represent "entrenched resistance to innovation" rooted in the fear of change.

For one example, if penicillin were to be discovered today it would not be able to get through the regulatory processes needed to bring it to market, he said.

For another, the US would be able to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint if it embraced nuclear-based power generation, but no new nuclear plants have been built in a generation, Dorr noted.

The Farm Bill legislation recurs every five years and is a major policy instrument of the US government, with the politically powerful agriculture lobby fighting for billions of dollars at stake in rural programmes, tax breaks and farm subsidies.

Dorr said that the majority Democrats and the minority Republicans, as well as President George Bush's Republican administration, were in broad agreement that renewable fuels - and cellulosic ethanol in particular - are "very high priorities" in the bill.

For more on ethanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence

Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels

By: Stephen Burns
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