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President Obama Takes Action to Advance Biofuels Production

May 6, 2009

President Barack Obama announced on May 5 that his administration is taking several steps to advance biofuels research and commercialization. The president signed a Presidential Directive to help preserve biofuel industry jobs and to establish the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which will develop the nation's first comprehensive program for growing the biofuels market. The President also announced that DOE will release $786.5 million in Recovery Act funds to accelerate advanced biofuels research, development, and deployment (see separate article) and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (see separate article). The EPA proposal outlines the agency's strategy for increasing the supply of renewable fuels.

The new Biofuels Interagency Working Group will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture and the EPA Administrator, and it will work with the National Science and Technology Council's Biomass Research and Development Board. It will use existing authorities and identify new policies to support the development of next-generation biofuels, increase the use of flexible-fuel vehicles, and assist in retail marketing efforts. The group will also coordinate policies for the infrastructure needed to produce and deliver biofuels and will work toward the sustainable production of biofuel feedstocks, taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency, water quality impacts, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo of a facility consisting of two silos, five large tanks, some buildings, and various additional equipment and connecting pipes.

The USDA will direct farm bill funds toward advanced biorefineries, such as this Poet pilot plant that can produce 20,000 gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: POET

The president also directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to preserve employment in the renewable fuels industry by immediately refinancing existing federal investments. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will also make financing from the 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) available within the next 30 days, including loan guarantees for commercial-scale biorefineries, grants for demonstration-scale biorefineries, expedited funding for installing biomass energy systems at biorefineries, and expedited funding to encourage the production of next-generation biofuels. The Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which will be renamed as the Rural Energy for America Program, will be expanded to offer guarantees for larger loans and to include energy audits and hydropower projects. President Obama also tasked Secretary Vilsack with developing a comprehensive approach to accelerating the investment in and production of biofuels in the United States. See the press releases from the White House and the USDA.