SAN ANTONIO -- Biofuels -- ethanol and biodiesel -- increase U.S. energy independence, are good for the environment and for rural America, according to Brooke Coleman, executive director of the New Fuels Alliance and spokesman for, a Web site created to combat criticism that using grain to make fuel increases the cost of food.

Coleman spoke at a conference during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting titled "The Growing Role of Biofuels for Today, Tomorrow and Beyond."

"Agriculture is the key to the new energy economy," Coleman said. "Biofuels are the key to agricultural revitalization."

The biofuels industry has survived a well-orchestrated smear campaign led by food makers and environmental groups. Now, the economy has taken a serious downturn. But renewable energy is poised for continued growth, according to Coleman.

He said many ethanol and biodiesel companies have cash reserves to transition through the current tough times, the cost of breaking down their feedstocks is coming down and several new biofuel plants making advanced ethanol from non-grain feedstocks are coming online.

The United States needs renewable fuels as part of the energy mix to become more energy independent, Coleman said, due to skyrocketing global energy demand.

"China will go from using 4 million barrels (of crude oil) per day now to 10 million barrels a day by 2012," Coleman explained. "We need biofuels as a hedge against that."

Coleman said environmental activists are behind a new effort in California that threatens ethanol use in one of the largest markets for the fuel. The state is considering putting new regulations in place that would require fuels to have 10 percent less "carbon intensity" by 2020. On one hand, the regulations present an opportunity for biofuels. They would be one compliance option, as direct carbon emissions from burning biofuels are lower than for burning petroleum fuels.

However, environmental groups are pushing for the state to consider indirect ripple effects from biofuel production, such as land use change, and add that to the carbon score for biofuels. No other form of energy-petroleum, electricity or hydrogen-would be measured this way, putting biofuels at a serious disadvantage.

Coleman said farmers and other advocates of biofuels need to get policy makers in California and other areas such as the Northeast that might consider such a proposal in the future to look at the issue more fairly.