President Obama today issued a directive to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on the subject of biofuels and rural economic development, calling for a new Biofuels Interagency Working Group headed by the Ag and Energy Secretaries and the EPA Administrator. Having the USDA, DOE, and EPA work together on biofuels issues makes a lot of sense.
In the memorandum, the President had a lot of good things to say about ethanol, including a citation of the 600,000 barrels of biofuels produced each day in the U.S. last year, as well as the jobs and tax revenues that are an important boost to the U.S. economy. The President instructed USDA to, within 30 days, get Farm Bill programs moving that will help biofuels facilities reduce fossil fuel use and transition to advanced biofuels production. This immediate assistance will be a positive for America's biofuel producers which have been struggling in today's tough economy as other industries have as well.
The discussion of the Presidential directive came in the same media conference call as the announcement of the proposed rulemaking for the Renewable Fuels Standard, which suggests that indirect greenhouse gas emissions be counted in biofuels' carbon tally. Though ethanol supporters aren't happy to see that methodology in the proposed RFS rule, there was a ray of hope -- the Presidential directive calls for a peer review of the assumptions surrounding the carbon intensity of biofuels and of fossil fuels.
Let's put this discussion back into the realm of science where it belongs so that fossil fuels can be subjected to the same scrutiny that biofuels have undergone. If biofuels' indirect GHG emissions are to be counted, then so should those of fossil fuels. The bottom line is that future sources of oil -- tar sands, oil shales, etc. -- are going to have serious consequences for the environment while future sources of biofuels are going to be even more environmentally friendly than they are today.
The American Coalition for Ethanol issued a full statement today which can be read here: http://www.ethanol.org/pdf/contentmgmt/ACE_praises_Presidents_biofuels_directive_5_5_09.pdf
Posted by KB, 5/5/09