Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Biofuel industry airs frustration with environmentalists

The biofuel industry got to air some of its frustrations with the environmental movement at an Energy Department biomass conference today. One of the sessions at the meeting featured a debate between Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, and Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Advanced Ethanol Council is an offshoot of the Renewable Fuels Association and represents companies that are trying to commercialize ethanol made from crop residue and other sources of biomass.

Coleman says environmentalists are making unreasonable demands on the ethanol in terms of performance standards and essentially providing cover for the oil industry and other opponents of the biofuel. "They're all thanking you for it," Coleman told Greene. Advanced ethanol companies already are struggling to get off the ground, and "it's almost like the environmental community is trying to make it worse," Coleman said.

As for Greene, he says that biofuel companies should expect to be held to higher environmental performance standards if they're going to ask the government for help in the form of usage mandates, subsidies and loan guarantees. "And don't whine about it when people say we want to measure that," he said.

"You need only look at what’s happened to the corn ethanol industry … to see what happens if you just bulldoze the public and use their money to support the industry," Greene said. 

What's happened to the corn ethanol industry, of course, is that it has lost a great deal of political support

as the price of corn has risen, pressuring food prices.

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