WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Biotechnology Industry Organization yesterday urged the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to commit to significantly reducing the cost of ethanol from cellulose by helping fund research and incentives for commercialization.

"We are going to miss a big opportunity to bring biofuels to the pump within the next few years if we do not fund the necessary research into applied fundamentals, at both laboratory and commercial-scale facilities," said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section.

"There is great public support for doing more to make biofuels a realistic replacement for gasoline in the near future," Erickson continued. According to a survey conducted in October by Harris Interactive(R) on behalf of BIO, four in five U.S. adults (80 percent) agree that national and state governments are not doing enough to promote production of biofuels -- fuels made from agricultural crops or plant matter.

Further, 82 percent of adults say national and state governments should provide financial incentives to biofuels producers to encourage the production and availability of biofuels. More than two out of three adults (69 percent) would use American-made biofuels even if these fuels cost slightly more than conventional gas.

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Biofuels Transportation Conference was to examine the research and infrastructure development needed to bring new biofuels to market.

"Research and development on new biofuels is complementary rather than competitive with incentives for deployment," Erickson continued. "In the early commercialization steps of any technology, first-generation plants experience bottlenecks and technical problems associated with scale-up. We must start to overcome issues in supply of raw materials, conversion of new feedstocks, and distribution of biofuels now. Then we must be prepared to enhance producers' economic performance going forward."

In November, BIO released a report, "Achieving Sustainable Production of Agricultural Biomass for Biorefinery Feedstock," that details the potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and the promise of no-till cropping for greater residue collection. The report examines considerations for sustainable harvesting of agricultural residues - such as corn stover and cereal straws - expected to be the near-term feedstocks for biorefineries. It also discusses the expected economic benefits for individual farmers who invest in the practices and equipment needed for sustainable harvests of these feedstocks. The report further points out the need for infrastructure to deliver feedstocks from farms to biorefineries.

James Hettenhaus of CEA Inc., author of the report, stated, "For the biofuel industry to expand, biorefinery operators must be confident that the supply chain for cellulosic feedstocks is robust, and farmers must be assured that they will benefit by adopting sustainable harvesting practices."

"Congress has the opportunity this year to fund advanced research and provide additional incentives that will help build a growing biofuel industry," Erickson concluded. "With industrial biotechnology processes now available that transform crop residues such as corn stover, wheat straw and rice straw into ethanol, America could soon meet an even larger portion of its transportation fuel needs with biofuels."

A complete copy of BIO's report on biomass infrastructure is online.

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

SOURCE: Biotechnology Industry Organization via Business Wire.