Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) announced this week his intent to introduce bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would help level the playing field for advanced biofuels such as algae. He wants to accomplish this by reforming the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to make it technology agnostic. Of the 36 billion gallons required by the RFS, up to 15 billion gallons can come from corn-based ethanol while the remaining gallons are a mix of biodiesel and advanced biofuels but cellulosic fuels (ethanol) are heavily favored.
Udall’s decision came after he toured New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Energy Research Laboratory where he spent time discussing the state’s growth in the biofuels sector with NMSU President Barbara Couture. He also met with researchers in the Algal Bioenergy Program. It should come as no surprise that Udall found the algae research interesting because NMSU is one of 16 other research institutions that are part of a consortium with Los Alamos National Laboratory that received a $49 million DOE grant to study the commercialization of algae-based fuels.
The bill will be supported by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and the the two intend on introducing it after the Senate returns from its August break. One goal of the proposed bill is to remove the cellulosic biofuel carve-out and replace it with a feedstock neutral category that includes all advanced biofuels including algae, cellulosic and other next-gen fuels. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA).
“Congress shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the use of emerging technologies,” said Udall. “This bill simply puts all advanced biofuels on a level playing field and lets the market determine which emerging technologies prove most useful.”
Udall is a long-time supporter of the “Do It All” energy approach and is a strong advocate of a national energy policy that includes all forms of energy such as wind, solar, biofuels, natural gas, enhanced oil recovery, clean coal technology and nuclear power.
“The West and my home state of New Mexico are rich in renewable energy opportunities like wind and solar and advanced biofuels. This legislation is an important step in making sure we’re taking full advantage of all the energy technologies our country has to offer,” added Udall.