National Wildlife Federation welcomes the release of a new National Academy of Sciences report, Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States, which highlights the need for a new Biofuels Innovation Program in the next Farm Bill.
“Biofuels represent a big part of our energy future, and next generation biofuels represent a groundbreaking new direction. Native grasses, trees, and other plants have the potential to double energy yields per acre, with just a fraction of the energy needed to produce corn-based ethanol, and with no need for irrigation. As these new technologies come on line, they will be key to our future clean energy production. The use of these fuels will also help stem global warming by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon.
“The report notes that cellulosic biofuels, produced from native plants like switchgrass, should have less impact on water quality per unit of energy gained. It suggests the adoption of public policies that encourage production of energy from cellulosic alternatives. America’s water resources will be under even greater pressure in a warming climate. Moving to non-irrigated, native crops to produce ethanol will go a long way towards helping to safeguard our water resources.
“Senators John Thune and Ben Nelson introduced legislation in the Senate to establish a new Biofuels Innovation Program that would provide incentives for farmers to grow up to five million acres of dedicated energy crops that could be turned into cellulosic ethanol or burned in powerplants. The incentives would be available in areas where a new or proposed biofuels facility is located that could make use of the energy crop.
“As is suggested by the new National Academies study, the incentives would be tied to conservation requirements, like soil conservation plans, buffer strips along streams, and restrictions on harvest during the nesting season.
“The Senate Agriculture Committee is now considering a new Farm Bill, and we urge the Committee to include the Biofuels Innovation Program in the Energy Title of the bill.
“The Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives in late July also included a new Biomass Energy Reserve Program that is similar to the Nelson-Thune bill, although it does not provide as many protections for water, wildlife and natural resources as are in the Senate version.
“Clearly, we need to move America forward in developing the next generation of biofuels in ways that are environmentally responsible and economically attractive to farmers. The new National Academy of Sciences report lends support to policies like the Biofuels Innovation Program that are vitally needed.”
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children’s future.