Udall introduces bill to level advanced biofuels playing field

By Bryan Sims | August 12, 2011

Job creation, along with technology and feedstock parity, has long been a unified sentiment expressed by participants within the algae industry to legislative leaders in Washington. Members of Congress appear to be hearing their voices as Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he will introduce bipartisan legislation that would help level the playing field for advanced biofuels, such as those derived from algae, by reforming the RFS2 to make it more technology neutral. Udall will introduce the bill with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, after the Senate returns from its August work period.

Udall made the announcement after touring New Mexico State University’s Energy Research Laboratory where he discussed the state’s growing biofuels industry with NMSU President Barbara Couture and researchers from the Algal Bioenergy Program, the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Business. NMSU is part of a consortium with Los Alamos National Laboratory and 16 other entities that have received a $49 million grant from the U.S. DOE to study the commercialization of algae-based fuels.

Currently, a vast majority of the advanced biofuel carve out in RFS2 is limited to only cellulosic biofuels—like cellulosic ethanol derived from wood biomass or inedible feedstocks such as switchgrass—but industry supporters such as the Algal Biomass Organization believe algae should be included in the mix. The ABO has also been on the record as stating algae-derived fuels should receive the same $1.01 per gallon cellulosic biofuel production tax credit and that it be taken into direct consideration with the 2012 Farm Bill.

Udall’s proposed bill could remedy the situation, according to a press statement, by removing the cellulosic biofuel carve-out, thus creating a technology-neutral category that would include all advanced biofuels including cellulosic, algae and other technologies, at the same 21 billion gallon standard by 2022. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., and Jay Inslee, D-Wash.

“Congress shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the use of emerging technologies,” Udall said. “This bill simply puts all advanced biofuels on a level playing field and lets the market determine which emerging technologies prove most useful.”

A survey conducted by the ABO of companies involved in the algae-to-biofuel segment indicated that creating legislative parity between algae and other advanced biofuels could create more than 200,000 jobs by 2022, compared to over 50,000 without such legislative parity.