Why do we care about biofuels?

It’s interesting how often I must answer this question. I’ve never heard anyone wonder why replacements for non-renewable electricity might be a good idea, but I hear regular questions on the baseline value of replacing petroleum with other fuels.

I’ll tell you why I care: I know we’re going to need fuel for a long time. We need it to fly our planes, ship our products, and many other heavy-duty, high energy needs. We don’t necessarily need fuel to drive our cars, as electric vehicles are proving, but the high energy provided by liquid fuel is an absolute must for a functioning economy and even a strong military.

I don’t care for the current, single choice of this fuel. It’s dirty, it comes from far away, and it drains our economy. This imbalance of trade makes us weaker as a nation. I would like to find ways to break the monopoly on this single choice, and provide a few different products to the market that don’t have so many unfortunate consequences.

Enter biofuel. Most people still think of corn ethanol and garage distillation projects for biodiesel when biofuels are mentioned. As a colleague of mine likes to say, those fuels are like dial-up internet. They’re a great place to start, but not where you want to end up. We want to end up at high-speed internet.

I spend my days getting to know the high-speed internet of biofuel technologies. These next generation, or advanced biofuels, do not come from food, have little or no negative social and land impacts, and perform exactly the same as gasoline or diesel. Best of all, they are made in the United States, and provide distributed generation opportunities to economies across the country.

I might have some quibbles about the specifics of some of their technologies, or the feedstocks the companies are using on a temporary basis, but this is why my organization (E2) is working on policies that provide incentives to bridge to these new technologies.

The opportunities for advanced biofuels are vast. Providing an alternative to THE lynchpin of our economy has such large potential payoffs, many companies are diving in to the seemingly insurmountable challenges to enter this entrenched commodity market. With such great challenges, there’s going to be some failures. But there’s also going to be some huge successes.

I’ll be following the successes of the industry and highlighting some of their economic stories through this blog. I invite you to follow along with me, and help cheer on an industry that is trying to save our environment and our economy.

Filed in: BlogMary Solecki
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