A Time To Reap

on June 23, 2011 at 9:05 AM

“To everything there is a season, a time to sow and a time to reap ….” Now is the time for America to realize the results of our investments in renewable transportation fuels. For the past 10 years, the U.S. government and industry have invested millions of dollars to drive the development of cellulosic biofuels. The bench work is complete and technology developments have exceeded expectations. Today pilot facilities across the country are producing cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues, dedicated energy crops and municipal waste. But the real promise of these breakthroughs will not be recognized in pilot-scale.

The discouraging truth is that market access for renewable transportation fuels is restricted by formidable barriers. A primary barrier is infrastructure. Consumer demand will never become a driving factor in renewable fuels adoption until there are real options that allow consumer choice and create open-market competitive solutions. It is time for a new direction in biofuels policy.

Federal investments and commitments need to be directed towards increasing infrastructure and supporting consumer choice. It’s time for VEETEC, the blender’s credit that has driven growth of the ethanol industry to-date, to evolve. One proposal under consideration includes shifting part of the current 45 cents per gallon tax credit towards the creation of infrastructure. A federal program to help gasoline retailers install blender pumps would be a positive first step.

A goal of 200,000 blender pumps installed across America in the next 3 to 4 years is achievable and realistic. This would create a market where economics and consumer choice drive competition between fuels. ‘But don’t we already have competition between fuels?’ you might ask. The answer in my view is not yet. Consumers may have a choice between different brands of gasoline, but true competition between renewable, American-grown biofuels and imported petroleum has yet to come.

America has wisely invested in the development of renewable transportation fuels. In less than a generation, the industry has grown to the point of producing over 13.5 billion gallons in 2010. These 13.5 billion gallons are not made from imported oil, but are produced in our country and create US jobs that can’t be outsourced. Now is the time to take the next step and move towards open-market, consumer-driven, competitive solutions within the renewable transportation fuels sector.

Garrett A. Screws, Jr. has served as Senior Manager, Governmental Relations for Novozymes since October 2006. Novozymes is the world leader in bioinnovation. With over 700 products used in 130 countries, Novozymes’ bioinnovations improve industrial performance and safeguard the world’s resources by offering superior and sustainable solutions for tomorrow’s ever-changing marketplace.

His work appears here by consideration of the American Council on Renewable Energy.

ACORE is a membership-based organization dedicated to advancing renewable energy in the U.S. through policy, finance and education. ACORE’S membership works in all sectors of renewable energy, including wind power, solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy, biomass, biofuels, and waste energy. ACORE provides a common platform for thought leadership through member engagement, conferences, programs, research and communications. ACORE, a 501©(3) non-profit organization, is headquartered in Washington, DC. Additional information is available at: http://www.acore.org.