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Obama admin. launches renewable fuels programs

Obama admin. launches renewable fuels programs(By Joel Wendland via People's Weekly World)President Obama took two major steps this week to expand the use of

renewable energy sources. First, he ordered the creation of a new

administration "biofuels working group." Second, he launched the rulemaking

process in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed at boosting the

minimum amounts of renewable fuels in the energy supply by 2022.The biofuelsworking group will be an interagency office that brings the

Departments of Agriculture and Energy and the EPA together to promote and

oversee the creation of a marketplace and infrastructure for producing,

transporting, selling and distributing biofuels. In addition, the group

will enforce environmental protection and oversee public health issues

related to the project.In a joint press teleconference with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, May 5th, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

said, “Expanding our biofuels infrastructure provides a unique opportunity

to spur rural economic development while reducing our dependence on foreign

oil – one of the great challenges of the 21st century."Vilsack added that the president wants the new group to work with industry

"to figure out how we might be able to do a better job of creating a market

for these biofuels we're going to produce." Another goal of the group will

be to work on accelerating the availability of renewable fuels in an

environmentally friendly way.Currently, corn-based ethanol is the predominant biofuel on the market. The

working group has been tasked to bring cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based

diesel, advanced biofuels and total renewable fuel into the marketplace as

well.Critics of corn-based ethanol argue that it is too closely tied to a food

product to be an effective replacement for non-renewable fossil fuels. High

food prices and serious environmental problems, like soil erosion, could

result. In fact, the energy required to produce it might offset

environmental or financial benefits the end-product may possess, a 2009

study by the University of Minnesota found.EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters that the president's plan

includes corn-based ethanol, but that the goal is to transition to

alternatives in the next few years. "Corn-based ethanol is a bridge,"

Jackson said. "It is a bridge to the next generation of biofuelsand other

ethanols."In addition to consuming far less energy than corn-based ethanol to

produce, experts believe that cellulosic ethanol and biomass diesel can be

made from agricultural and other waste products instead of edible food

products.Secretary Vilsack emphasized this latter point in order to allay fears that

farmers who earn income from selling corn for ethanol production might be

hurt financially by the transition. "Part of the cellulosic material that

might be looked at in the future will be the corn stover, the waste product

of the corn production process. So that is another opportunity for

producers to profit," he said.The president's economic recovery act provides some $785 billion for

investments in building refineries for these new types of fuels. That is on

top of over $1 billion allocated by the Farm Bill.Secretary of Energy Steven Chu linked the administration's goals to solving

both the climate crisis and the need for job creation. “Developing the next

generation of biofuels is key to our effort to end our dependence on

foreign oil and address the climate crisis – while creating millions of new

jobs that can't be outsourced,” he said.If the EPA rule is adopted, a minimum of 36 billions gallons of biofuels

would be required as part of the national fuel supply by 2022. In addition,

the rule would set significant targets for reductions in greenhouse gas

emissions that cause global warming.Put into perspective, the EPA rule would order an average of about 10

million gallons per day of renewable fuels be in the