Advanced biofuels from new feedstocks are facing a “chicken and egg” situation on the way to commercialization and that is why government funding remains vital to the industry.
That was the message delivered by Chris Standlee, Executive Vice President of Abengoa Bioenergy, during a teleconference with other advanced biofuels company officials on Thursday. “It’s a critical ‘chicken and egg’ scenario since few people are willing to grow the feedstocks before the facilities are built and few people are willing to build the facilities until the biomass feedstocks are available, so government incentives are critical,” said Standlee.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) hosted the roundtable call – which also included officials from Ineos Bio, Coskata and POET – to discuss how USDA programs such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels are needed to coordinate market efforts to create a sustainable value chain for bioenergy and biofuel production. USDA recently announced progress in implementing those two programs and previously implemented the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), including designation of Qualified Biomass Conversion Facilities. “The BCAP program is a critical program to develop this infrastructure,” Standlee said. “It provides payments direct to farmers and people who deliver the feedstock to the qualified facilities.”
However, funding for some of these programs may be in jeopardy due to opposition in Congress. “We certainly want to point out our belief that this opposition is short sighted and impedes our significant efforts to provide this increasing alternative to imported foreign petroleum,” Standlee said.
He also noted the importance of advanced biofuels commercialization in creating jobs and revitalizing rural economies, using the Abengoa plant to be built in Hugoton, Kansas as an example. “We anticipate roughly a two year construction period, during which there will be 300 minimum direct construction jobs created in this rural area of southwestern Kansas,” he said. Once construction is complete, which they hope to start this year, the plant will provide 65 permanent local jobs and will purchase feedstock from farmers in the surrounding area.
Abengoa is one of the founding members of the new Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) announced this week and Standlee is serving as vice chairman of the new group. “Our primary goal is to make sure that biofuels are allowed to grow and given the support necessary, particularly the advanced biofuels which are just now coming into their own, and given the opportunity to assume a significant role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” he said.
Listen to Standlee’s comments from the teleconference here: Chris Standlee, Abengoa