Carol Werner, Executive Director
Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Presented for:
Biofuels and the Promise for Sustainable Energy Conference
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
August 2007

Abstract : The twin drivers of oil security and climate change have pushed biofuels into the forefront of US national energy policy. The industry has grown rapidly, and at this point is based upon corn ethanol and soy biodiesel. A variety of policy proposals are before the US Congress in terms of major pending energy and agriculture legislation which would greatly advance the role of biofuels. At the same time concerns have been raised about the cost of such proposals, the sustainability of biofuel production, potential competition with food, animal feed and other crops as well as land use issues. Biofuels represent an important piece of the solution to the challenges of a world facing climate change and oil security concerns – but are not a silver bullet. Instead, they must be part of a ‘sustainable’ strategy that works in tandem with other policies that will allow us to address multiple issues to achieve multiple benefits at the same time. Key elements that must be addressed include diversification of feedstocks that are appropriate to given regions based upon local soil, precipitation, low inputs and climate conditions; encouragement of local ownership so that local economic activity is enhanced; and development of new technologies and biorefineries that will promote high efficiency and a low/no net carbon emission life cycle. Without addressing these issues carefully and thoughtfully – whether in the United States, Brazil or other countries moving forward on biofuels – we run the risk of jeopardizing public consensus for long-term support of biofuels as well as jeopardizing the long term environmentally sustainable economic development that is critical to the well-being of our societies and our planet. This is a critical time to make sure we ‘get it right’.

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