Stakeholders respond to USDA’s biofuels roadmap
Cropping Approaches. Stakeholders urged more analysis on double cropping, intercropping, reserve cropping, and reclaimed land cropping opportunities.
Local Energy. Bioenergy policies should include a higher number of regionally-tailored approaches and receive federal attention that involves all of America and avoid energy markets dominated by single regions. Examples provided included smaller biorefinery facilities that could reduce the transportation distances of feedstocks and fuels to reduce transportation and delivery costs.
Wood. Stakeholders from major forestry regions of the country believed that a greater recognition of the role of both existing and new woody resources is merited. Interest was strong in ensuring that wood residues are sustainably harvested, and that potential disruption of existing markets be considered. Purpose-grown wood could also be a major contributor in some regions, and significant potential exists for use of wood from forest health and fuel reduction treatments for energy purposes.
Biomass for heat and power. Many stakeholders expressed support for a greater acknowledgement of solid biomass in replacing or displacing fossil fuels for heat and power. This creates additional and possibly competing demand for biomass.
During the stakeholder workshops, organizers asked participants a series of questions regarding different aspects of biofuel production and use. Among these, they asked what issues might deter farmers from growing biofuel crops. Common responses included market risk and the need for guaranteed markets for the crops, the “food versus fuel” issue and environmental protection, management issues and concerns over long-term viability of the biofuels industry.
Asked whether biofuels should be sustainable, about half said yes, with many others apparently unsure how to interpret the term “sustainable.” Asked to define it, most indicated it is the ability to maintain or increase levels of production/harvest for perpetuity. Several others defined it in terms of economic viability and others in terms of environmental quality.
A widely accepted framework for sustainability in agricultural production involves the “triple bottom line” of being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable. Whether biofuel production can meet those criteria while growing at the rates specified in the RFS remain to be seen.
Read the summary report from USDA.