Bioenergy

Attention Increases for Biofuels R&D in U.S.

Members of the U.S. Committee on Science & Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy & Environment met last week to examine federal efforts to research and develop (R&D) biofuels and biorefineries in light of the growing demand for an increased use in biofuels.

Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) released a discussion draft of Committee legislation entitled, The Biofuels Research and Development Enhancement Act. The draft measure would provide for a research, development and demonstration program on biofuels and would direct studies on increasing consumption of mid-level ethanol-blended gasoline (10%-40% blend).

It would also study optimization of Flex Fuel Vehicles while running on E-85 as well as engine durability at differing blend levels of biodiesel.

“This draft will serve as a starting point to discuss what legislative efforts are needed to ensure we maximize the federal funding spent on biofuels research and development,” said Chairman Lampson.

While the use of corn-based ethanol has grown significantly under the Renewable Fuel Standard of the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005, current biofuels, and mostly corn ethanol, represent less than 5 percent of total gasoline sold. Ethanol is most commonly blended with gasoline at a level of 10 percent or less.

But because expansion of corn-based ethanol leads to concerns about the competition with feed and food supply—as well as water and nutrient demand associated with corn production—the focus on diversifying biomass sources for biofuel production has shifted to cellulosic materials such as grasses, wood and waste materials.