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Three Steps to Boost Biofuels

President Barack Obama announced three actions that the federal government is taking to boost U.S. biofuels production. The measures include: the final rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons by 2022; a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which provides financing to increase the production of biomass for bioenergy; and the release of Growing America’s Fuel,the first report from the president’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group. The report lays out a strategy to advance the development and commercialization of a sustainable biofuels industry.

The primary measure is the change in the RFS program, required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates that biofuels production will grow from last year’s 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The 2022 goal includes 21 billion gallons to come from advanced biofuels, defined as those that cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%. For the first time, some renewable fuels must also achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions, compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace, in order to be counted towards compliance with volume standards. According to the EPA, meeting the 2022 goal could reduce U.S. dependence on oil by more than 328 million barrels per year.

The EPA final rule sets the RFS for 2010 at 12.95 billion gallons of renewable fuel, all of which must be used in transportation fuels over the course of the year. For the first time, the EPA has also set volume requirements for specific categories of renewable fuels. For 2010, the cellulosic biofuel standard is 6.5 million gallons, and the total volume of advanced biofuels must be at least 950 million gallons. Biomass-based diesel is expected to contribute 650 million gallons of that total, but because a regulatory structure was not implemented to achieve the 2009 requirement of 500 million gallons of biomass-based diesel, the new rule combines the two years, requiring a total of 1.15 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel for 2009 and 2010.with the biomass-based diesel standard is being set at 1.15 bg by combining the 2009 and 2010 standards. See the full EPA rule.

As a second measure, the USDA has also proposed a rule for the BCAP program, which has already begun to provide matching payments for the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of biomass to eligible biomass conversion facilities. The third part of the biofuels effort was the release of Growing America’s Fuel, the first report from the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which was created by the president last May and led by USDA, DOE, and the EPA. The report focuses on both short-term growth and the long-term roadmap for biofuel growth, using strategies such as public-private partnerships. Among other things, it calls for increased government consumption of biofuels along with an integrated management approach.

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