Sustainable Biofuels Redux
Last May's passage of the 2008 Farm Bill raises the stakes for biofuel sustainability:
A substantial subsidy for the production of cellulosic ethanol starts the United States again down a path with uncertain environmental consequences. This time, however, the subsidy is for both the refiners ($1.01 per gallon) and the growers ($45 per ton of biomass), which will rapidly accelerate adoption and place hard-to-manage pressures on efforts to design and implement sustainable production practices-as will a 2007 legislative mandate for 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year by 2022. Similar directives elsewhere, e.g., the European.
Union's mandate that 10% of all transport fuel in Europe be from renewable sources by
2020, make this a global issue. The European Union's current reconsideration of this target
places even more emphasis on cellulosic feedstocks. The need for knowledge- and science-based policy is urgent.