Wind, solar power, geothermal and other alternative energy sources each get their own healthy share, but President Obama was pushing extra hard for biofuels at a bipartisan meeting of governors last week. He announced a three-tiered plan to boost biofuel production in the United States. He also discussed some other, more controversial clean energy plans involving “clean coal” and nuclear power.
Steps to promote biofuels include a new rule from the EPA that will set a national renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons by 2022. The Department of Agriculture is planning a Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which will provide financing to increase the conversion of biomass to bioenergy. Also released was an interagency report, “Growing America’s Fuel,” that outlines a comprehensive plan to meet or exceed the above biofuel targets by enhancing biofuel development and commercialization.
- Renewable Fuels Standard – The target of 36 billion gallons by 2022 would more than triple biofuel production in 12 years, up from the 11.1 billion gallons produced last year. According to the Department of Energy, doing so will decrease U.S. dependence on oil by 328 million gallons per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 138 million metric tons per year in 2022.
- Biomass Crop Assistance Program – The USDA will provide grants, loans and other financial assistance to help biofuels and renewable energy commercialization under BCAP. The USDA has already begun providing matching grants to people and organizations delivering biomass to energy conversion facilities. The new program will significantly increase those efforts.
- Growing America’s Fuel – In May of last year President Obama established the Biofuels Interagency Working Group – headed by the EPA, USDA and DOE – and commissioned a comprehensive strategy to increase the use and production of biofuels. Out of that group came this new report. It focuses on short-term strategies to support the existing biofuels industry as well as the development of an prosperous, long-term market for the advanced biofuels of the future.
The Controversial Push for “Clean Coal”
In addition to his noted push for more biofuel production, Obama also pushed “clean coal” and nuclear power in an effort to seal bipartisan support for climate change legislation pending in Congress. At that same governors meeting, the president released a memorandum on a “Comprehensive Federal Strategy on Carbon Capture and Storage.” The issue of clean coal is highly controversial, but Obama defended his decision to pursue the questionable technology by saying that even if the U.S. could end or greatly reduce its dependence on coal-fired power, countries like China and India most definitely would not in the near-term. Therefore, researching and developing clean coal technologies is essential and would at least be useful internationally, and most likely here at home as well.
On that note, the president established an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage that must formulate a plan within 180 days that would overcome technological barriers to implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. That plan should include incentives for CCS development and a host of other related issues that affect our current inability to properly utilize CCS. This move by the president will be far less popular with environmental groups, but represents yet another attempt at bipartisan support in Congress and amongst the nation’s governors.