September 16, 2011

Crapo, Udall Introduce Bill to Level Playing Field for Advanced Biofuels

Would make renewable fuels standard more "technology neutral"

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)and Tom Udall (D-NM) recently introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would help level the playing field for advanced biofuels like algae by reforming the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to make it more "technology neutral."

The RFS includes a traditional ethanol standard of up to 15 billion gallons by 2015, originating mostly from corn feedstock, and a separate advanced biofuels standard, known as RFS2.  Currently, the large majority of the advanced biofuel standard is limited by law to only cellulosic biofuels.  While cellulosic biofuels are an emerging technology, the current RFS2 creates an uneven playing field for other promising advanced biofuels like algae. The Udall-Crapo bill simplifies the RFS2 by making this category "technology neutral," opening it to all advanced biofuels, including cellulosic, algae, and other technologies, at the same 21 billion gallon standard by 2022.

"Now more than ever, America needs a national energy plan that ensures we have access to reliable, affordable and cleaner domestic energy.  Algae has been credited as a very promising feedstock in our quest for national energy independence, and its inclusion in the Renewable Fuel Standard will get us one step closer to that goal," Crapo said. 

"The West and my home state of New Mexico are rich in opportunities for advanced biofuels, including algae, cellulosic and others.  I support the Renewable Fuels Standard, which is already helping to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and this improvement will accelerate that success," Udall said. "This bill simply puts all advanced biofuels on a level playing field and lets the market determine which types of fuel are produced to meet the standard."

A survey conducted by the Algal Biomass Organization of companies in the algae biofuel industry indicated that creating legislative parity between algae and other advanced biofuels could create more than 200,000 jobs by 2022, compared to around 50,000 without such legislative parity.

Algae biofuels are considered non-cellulose in that they produce oils as a feedstock, not cellulose or sugar, from photosynthesis. That oil can be extracted and converted into fuels like traditional gasoline.  Algae and other advanced biofuels can also be converted into high energy density fuels like diesel or jet fuel, offering additional opportunities for reducing reliance on imported oil.

Organizations supporting this legislation include the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) and the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA).

Said Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director of ABO, "The Algal Biomass Organization applauds Senators Udall and Crapo for understanding the potential of algae technology to create jobs and increase energy independence while recognizing that the current renewable fuels policy is an inhibitor to our industry's growth.  With this, we support the Renewable Fuel Parity Act of 2011 as presented today. We share his view that algae-based fuels should be at parity with other renewable fuels in the tax code and infuel standards. We will continue to work with Senator Udall on his initiative, similar House sponsored legislation, and others in Congress to accelerate the commercial development of fuels made from algae through fair and effective policies."

"Senators Udall and Crapo continue to demonstrate their leadership and significant commitment to renewable energy technologies and the development of America's advanced biofuels industry. We look forward to building on our progress by ensuring comprehensive and consistent policies are enacted that encourage the growth of all biofuels, including advanced drop-in, algae, and cellulosic fuels to deliver as many gallons to back out foreign oil as quickly as possible," said President of the ABFA, Michael McAdams.

Udall announced plans to introduce this legislation in August after touring New Mexico State University's Energy Research Laboratory, where he discussed the state's growing biofuels industry with NMSU President Barbara Couture and researchers from the Algal Bioenergy Program, the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and the College of Business. NMSU is part of a consortium with Los Alamos National Laboratory and 16 other entities that have received a $49 million grant from the Department of Energy to study the commercialization of algae-based fuel.