10° post “White House seeks to speed advanced biofuels”

The Obama administration on Tuesday took steps to promote biofuels and is expected to publish a proposal for measuring the environmental impact from biofuels, in a move likely to spark a debate within the industry.

The administration has created the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which is tasked with helping the ailing biofuels industry and creating policies to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels. Measures include making money available to refinance existing biorefineries or to make them more energy efficient.

During a conference call on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the availability of $786.5 million for biofuels research and to accelerate commercialization of advanced biofuels, such as ethanol from wood chips and grasses.

The bulk of the money–$480 million–will be made available in grants to demonstrate “integrated biorefinery technologies” where refineries use alternatives to fossil fuels to operate, such as biofuels and combined heat and power systems. Of the total, $130 million will go toward research, including the creation of an algae biofuels consortium and a group dedicated to biofuels compatible with the existing infrastructure.

Later on Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency will publish a proposal for rules on how to assess the greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels, EPA director Lisa Jackson said during the call. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act required the EPA to do a lifecycle analysis of biofuels’ greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum fuels.

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