DOE Conference Focuses on Biomass Future

Cindy Zimmerman

With appropriate policies to help overcome current fiscal constraints, the advanced biofuels industry can meet environmental goals, create new green jobs and contribute to economic growth, according to industry leaders who met this week at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of the Biomass Program’s Biomass 2009: Fueling Our Future conference.

biomass 2009During the conference opening plenary session, titled “Dispelling the Myths and Addressing the Challenges,” Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) executive vice president Brent Erickson stressed the economic potential that development of the advanced biofuels industry holds.

“Building advanced biofuel production to a modest target of 45 billion gallons by 2030, which can be achieved by maintaining the same pace of technology development, could create more than 400,000 jobs within the industry and 1.9 million new jobs throughout the economy,” said Erickson. “Further, it could provide an economic boost of $300 billion.”

Richard Hamilton, chief executive of energy crop company Ceres, Inc., said large increases expected in crop productivity, as well as better utilization of fallow or marginal land, will absorb the demands being placed on U.S. farmers by bioenergy. “And if we look at improved ways to roll-out advances in plant science globally, and rely primarily on non-food, low-carbon crops like switchgrass, sorghum and Miscanthus, then the math behind biofuels looks even more promising,” he said.

Jack Huttner with DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol discussed some of the economic and policy challenges facing the industry and noted that everything depends on a robust government support structure. “We won’t need incentives and subsidies forever, but we need them to get started. In particular, we need regulatory regimes and policies from agencies like the EPA that don’t send the wrong signals to the marketplace.”

The conference was held yesterday and today at the Gaylord National in National Harbor, MD.

BIO, biomass, Government