Interagency Report Supports More Biofuels Research

The interagency Biomass Research and Development Board released on Dec. 4 a report on the economic feasibility of developing both farm- and forest-derived biofuel feedstocks to meet national targets for biofuels to reduce gasoline consumption.

Among the report's overall conclusions is that new technologies resulting from research and development are the linchpin to developing a sustainable biofuel industry that meets national targets. Last year's energy bill set out a Renewable Fuels Standard that calls for production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels annually by 2022.

"Our national security, our economy, and the future of the planet require that we explore the development of biofuels in a cost-effective, environmentally sound manner and that we move beyond food crops to include a diverse base of feedstocks," said Gale Buchanan, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture chief scientist and undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics. "This report addresses the constraints and implications of meeting our biofuel production goals and provides invaluable guidance for further research." Buchanan co-chairs the board with John Mizroch.

"In commissioning this report we tapped the talents of professionals across the federal government to address the economic feasibility and environmental implications of enhanced feedstock production," said Mizroch, who is acting assistant secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "We will continue promoting interagency cooperation in addressing constraints in developing biomass feedstocks to diversify our alternative fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions."

The feedstocks report is one in a series of initiatives detailed in the interagency Action Plan unveiled by the board in October. The board, co-chaired by officials from USDA and the Department of Energy (DOE), coordinates the efforts of nine federal agencies and two executive-branch offices in advancing research and development of biobased products and bioenergy.

This report addresses the uncertainty surrounding the use of additional feedstocks to meet the nation's biofuels goals—namely, what types of feedstocks and at what prices, grown where, and with what implications for greenhouse gases and sustainability. The investigation is conducted through an analysis of scenarios for specific biofuel targets, and with alternative assumptions about key variables like crop productivity and input prices.

"Increasing Feedstock Production for Biofuels: Economic Drivers, Environmental Implications, and the Role of Research," is available at