How to Make Renewable Fuels Sustainable

25x’25 alliance releases production principles.

Published on: Mar 14, 2008

For renewable energy to be a long-term solution for America, producing it must not harm this nation’s natural resources. It also must be economically viable and socially acceptable.

In Omaha in mid-March, 25x'25, an alliance of 700 organizations and individuals, adopted "sustainability principles" to achieve those environmental, economic and social goals. The alliance's overall mission is to have America's farms and forests, by 2025, provide 25% of the total energy consumed in the United States.

At the national 25x'25 Summit, a steering committee released the principles, which cover air quality, biodiversity, biotechnology, efficiency and conservation, greenhouse gas emission, invasive species, private and public lands, soil erosion, water quality and quantity, and wildlife.

"At the heart of the principles is the responsible use and orderly development of natural resources in a way that takes full and balanced account of the interests of society, future generations and other species," says steering committee co-chairman Read Smith of St. John, Wash.

Bart Ruth, Rising City, Neb., farmer, is a member of the steering committee. "The principles are a proactive step to set guidelines for renewable fuel producers and to show consumers that agriculture and forests can provide renewable energy in a positive way. Agricultural is known for adopting best management practices and new technologies, including biotechnology, and that is the key to the future of renewable fuel production.

Ruth says that 25x'25 must maintain its current strong support base from environmental organizations to make agricultural-based renewable fuel production sustainable.

The principles are available at the 25x'25 Web site (

Following are more specifics on the principles:
• Access: Renewable energy producers and consumers should have fair and equitable access to renewable energy markets, products, and infrastructure.
• Air Quality: Renewable energy production should maintain or improve air quality.
• Biodiversity: Renewable energy production should maintain or enhance landscape biodiversity and protect native, rare, threatened, and endangered species and habitat.
• Community Economic Benefits: Renewable energy production should bolster the economic foundation and quality of life in communities where it occurs.
• Efficiency and Conservation: Renewable energy production should be energy efficient, use biomass residues and waste materials when possible, and conserve natural resources at all stages of production, harvesting, and processing.
• Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Renewable energy production should result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.
• Invasive and Non-Native Species: Non-native species can be used for renewable energy production when there are safeguards against negative impacts on native plants and animals and on agricultural and forestry enterprises.
• Market Parity: Renewable energy production should have parity with fossil fuels in access to markets and incentives.
• Opportunities: All regions of the nation should have the opportunity to participate in renewable energy development and use.
• Private Lands: Renewable energy production on private farms, forests and grasslands should improve the health and productivity of these lands and help protect them from being permanently converted to non-working uses.
• Public Lands: Renewable energy production from appropriate public lands should be sustainable and contribute to the long-term health and mission of the land.
• Soil Erosion: Renewable energy production should use the best available technologies and management practices to protect soils from loss rates greater than can be replenished.
• Soil Quality: Renewable energy production should maintain or enhance soil resources and the capacity of working lands to produce food, feed, fiber and associated environmental services and benefits.
• Special Areas: Renewable energy production should respect special areas of important conservation, historic, and social value.
• Technology: New technologies, including approved biotechnology, can play a significant role in renewable energy production, provided they create land use and production efficiencies and protect food, feed, and fiber systems and other environmental values.
• Water Quality: Renewable energy production should maintain or improve water quality.
• Water Quantity: Renewable energy production systems and facilities should maximize water conservation, avoid contributing to downstream flooding and protect water resources.
• Wildlife: Renewable energy production should maintain or enhance wildlife habitat.