The US Department of Energy (DOE) yesterday announced an $80 million investment in advanced biofuels, but a study from Rice University says Government policy is flawed.
The funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), together with over $19 million in private and non-federal matching funds, will support two research efforts on algae-based biofuels and the development of fueling infrastructure.
The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis will develop an approach for the sustainable commercialisation of algal biofuels for vehicles and aircraft.
The National Renewable Energy and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories will lead the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC) research biomass-based hydrocarbon fuels.
A further eight projects across nine states will receive $1.6 million from the DOE and $3.9 million in matching funds, to expand the use of ethanol blends at existing fuelling stations.
But a policy paper from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University says that the US Government needs to radically rethink its policy of promoting ethanol as a transport fuel.
The report, Fundamentals of a Sustainable US Biofuels Policy, seriously questions whether the Government’s targets for biofuel production and use can be met and whether biofuels are improving the environment and energy security.
The report claims that there is no scientific consensus that US-produced corn-based ethanol is climate friendly and should not be credited with reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with the use of gasoline.
The US Government set targets of 9 billion gallons of biofuels a year in 2008, rising to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022. Corn-based ethanol is limited to 15 billion gallons a year, but even this level could be difficult to reach, says the report.
Massive subsidies are being ploughed into biofuel production, with little environmental benefit and potential for actual damage in some parts of the US such as along the Mississippi River and in the Gulf of Mexico where increased irrigation is required to grow corn feestock.
The report found that in 2008, the US Government spent $4 billion in subsidies to replace 2% of the country’s gasoline supply with biofuel.
“We need to set realistic targets for ethanol in the US instead of just throwing taxpayer money out the window,” says report co-author Amy Myers Jaffe.
For further information:
Report raises fresh concerns about biofuels (16-Nov 2009)
US Department of Energy awards $21 million for cellulosic biofuels (1-Sept 2009)
Obama takes more sustainable approach to biofuels (6-May 2009)
14 January 2010