First Generation Biofuels Provide Foundation for Fuels of Tomorrow January 20th, 2010 Goto comments Leave a comment Biofuels provide much needed environmental, economic development and national security benefits. Ethanol is a first-generation biofuel that not only provides these benefits, but offers a platform from which explosive growth will be seen in future generations of biofuels. It’s important not to lose sight of the contributions ethanol is making, and will continue to make, to our growing demand for energy. The DOE recently announced an investment of nearly $80 million into algae-based biofuel research. The funds will also support a research consortium headed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that will look at the processes needed to make biofuels compatible with storage and distribution infrastructure. Similarly themed announcements in recent months have stressed DOE support of third-and fourth-generation biofuels. A basic tenet of the 25x’25 Vision is that it will take a wide variety of energy sources to meet global energy demand that is projected to grow 40 percent over the next 20 years. It is important for U.S. policy makers to optimize the contributions that all renewable energy resources can offer in meeting this growth in demand. They can be produced domestically and sustainably, providing economic benefits, enhancing our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and improving our environment. The third- and fourth-generation biofuels that recent DOE research funding is targeting will become in the years ahead increasingly important in meeting the impending growth in energy demand. In the meantime, it is critical to remember the significant role that ethanol now plays in keeping petroleum-based fuel prices down, reducing oil imports and lessening our carbon emissions. Ethanol is still a relatively new medium that must be sustained and allowed to expand into the next generation of abundant, affordable and environmentally beneficial cellulosic biofuels. Through science and technology, the production of first-generation biofuels continues to become increasingly efficient, generating increased biomass yields and reducing energy and water use. Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by half compared with petroleum use, and GHGs will fall even further with cellulosic ethanol. Ethanol and its immediate successor will continue to replace fossil fuels and bring more energy security. And ethanol remains the principle economic driver in many rural communities, particularly in the Midwest, where the recession has hit hard. Ethanol is a renewable energy resource that is serving our nation well. While we await the maturation of cellulosic biofuels in the short term, and advanced and so-called “drop- in” biofuels in the longer term, ethanol is providing real environmental, economic and national security benefits. Ethanol is a foundation that we can ill afford to let erode and weaken.