Energy Coalition Calls for Broader Federal Funding, Incentives for Bioenergy Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 18, 2003) — Biotechnology is taking naturally occurring residues from grains and agricultural products —called biomass — and creating a viable, more environmentally sound alternative to petroleum and should, therefore, be encouraged through enhanced government funding and other incentives, according to a report released this morning by the Energy Future Coalition. The coalition is an independent, privately-funded organization of business, labor and environmental groups working to address global challenges related to the production and use of energy.

"Recent scientific advances in genomics and industrial biotechnology have made it possible to convert biomass derived from cellulose into a petroleum substitute and other products that offer significant environmental, national security and economic benefits," said Brent Erickson, chair of the coalition's Working Group on Bioenergy and Agriculture and Vice President for the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO's) Industrial and Environmental Section.

"These policy recommendations acknowledge the many societal and economic advantages that bioenergy represents and is calling on the federal government to provide more policies and programs necessary to speed up its commercialization. With greater federal support we can fuel our cars and our economy with corn stalks instead of composted dinosaurs," Erickson added.

Cellulosic biomass is derived from agricultural residues, such as corn stover, rice hulls and wheat straw, as well as from grass clippings, sawdust and yard trimmings, and is considered to be an especially viable and plentiful resource to create bioenergy alternatives.

The coalition's report, "Charting a New Energy Future," was based on a six-month study to determine how U.S. energy policy can be modified and improved to address the political and economic security threats posed by global oil dependence, environmental risks created by climate changes and the lack of access to the world's poor to modern energy services needed for economic advancement.

"All 50 states have biomass that could be used to create bio-derived substitutes to oil, gas, chemicals, and plastics," Erickson said. "Although market opportunities will eventually lead to widespread use of industrial biotechnology and production of bio-based products, the government could do much to accelerate their market entry and resulting benefits to the nation."

To help speed the commercialization of bio-based products, the Working Group recommends the following:
  • A Department of Defense-conducted competition that will build five-to-ten commercial-scale demonstration plants within five years to test novel processes for converting biomass to petroleum substitutes.
  • Triple bioenergy research and development funding to $500 million annually and broaden its focus.
  • Produce incentives to stimulate new markets for biomass, such as gradually replacing agricultural export subsidies with bioenergy subsidies.
  • Use government policy to increase the use of bio-derived products and reflect their societal benefits.

BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.