Energy Bill Biofuels Mandates Will Be Achievable with Biotechnology Advances
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tuesday, December 18, 2007) - The new renewable fuel standard (RFS) calling for production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 will help accelerate development of advanced industrial biotechnology applications necessary to economically produce these volumes of biofuels, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said today.
“The RFS could add as much as $170 billion to the U.S. economy in advanced technology development, biofuel production, and infrastructure construction,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section. The Senate on Dec. 13 passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the House is expected to approve it this week, and the President has indicated he will sign the bill.
Erickson added, “In order to meet the new RFS we must couple advances in biotechnology with the building of a huge new energy infrastructure. This undertaking is larger than the Apollo project or the Manhattan project, but it is doable because of the accelerating advances in biotechnology. This is the most ambitious policy undertaken by any government in the world to create a viable and significant biofuels industry. It is also a rare example of bi-partisan cooperation to accomplish something significant. BIO and its member companies applaud the Senate and House of Representatives for sending a strong, bipartisan bill to the President.”
Erickson continued, “The industrial biotechnology and biofuel industries are ready and able to meet the challenge of sustainably increasing production of cellulosic and advanced biofuels to accomplish the goals of the new renewable fuels standard. Industrial biotechnology companies have made extraordinary leaps in an array of applications for biofuel production, from discovery of new microbes and enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production to creation of novel ones through synthetic genomics that can actually produce hydrocarbon molecules. By opening the door to advanced biofuels in the U.S. transportation fuel market, the energy bill will help biotechnology and biofuel companies deliver these advanced biofuel technologies to consumers’ gas tanks.”
According to a February 2007 analysis by Bio Economic Research Associates, productivity of DNA sequencing and synthesis, key industrial biotechnologies, has doubled in the past 12 to 24 months. These productivity improvements have contributed to the discovery and rapid development of new microbes for consolidated biofuel processing by such companies as Mascoma, Verenium, and Sun Ethanol. They have also advanced the work of synthetic genomics companies designing novel microbes for advanced biofuel production, including Gevo, OpX Biotechnologies, and LS9.
A report released by the J. Craig Venter Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in November 2007, “Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance,” identified at least 24 companies within the United States and 21 in other countries – notably Germany and Canada – engaged in commercial synthesis of gene- and genome-length DNA for applications ranging from biofuels to fine chemical and pharmaceutical production from renewable resources.
Erickson continued, “Market demand for environmentally beneficial fuels and products, along with recent advances in industrial biotech, can help create a biobased economy in the United States. Biobased plastics and chemicals made from sustainable renewable resources are already economically competitive with petroleum-based products. Investment in biorefineries spurred by the new renewable fuel standard can support development of other biobased products that further reduce America’s reliance on petroleum.”
Early in 2007, McKinsey & Company analysts estimated the worldwide biofuel market to reach $61 billion by 2010. With the proposed renewable fuel standard, McKinsey has estimated the U.S. market alone to be worth as much as $70 billion by 2022. Further, investment of more than $100 billion will be needed to construct new biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels.
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BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the