In Tuesday's night State of the Union address, President George W. Bush said "America is addicted to oil." A statement few would expect to hear from a Texan president. Bush laid out how biobased fuels can play a critical role in moving America beyond foreign oil dependence in the next decade.
Bush says he wants to accelerate the development of domestic renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuels. He also called for accelerated research in cutting-edge methods of producing "celluosic ethanol" with the goal of making the use of such ethanol practical and competitive within six years.
Part of his plan includes the Biorefinery Initiative. To achieve greater use of "homegrown" renewable fuels in the United States, advanced technologies need to be perfected to make fuel ethanol from cellulosic (plant fiber) biomass, which is now discarded as waste.
The President's 2007 Budget will include $150 million - a $59 million increase over FY06 - to help develop bio-based transportation fuels from agricultural waste products, such as wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Research scientists say that accelerating research into "cellulosic ethanol" can make it cost-competitive by 2012, offering the potential to displace up to 30% of the Nation's current fuel use.
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, says this call by the President to expand on the corn-based ethanol industry by developing cellulose-to-ethanol technology shows that the President recognizes that the "future of ethanol is not just a blending component, but as a replacement fuel in the form of E85. A mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, E85 can be used in flexible fuel vehicles being produced in increasing numbers by Ford and General Motors."
Car makers are starting to incorporate fuel efficient technologies in automobiles. Bush says it will take approximately 15 years to switch America's automobiles over to those more fuel efficient technologies. "The sooner breakthroughs are achieved, the better for America," he says.
Farmers stand to benefit from decrease oil dependence.
The 25 x '25 Energy Work group, composed of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agribusiness leaders, has a similar vision for America's future. Co-chairman Read Smith, who farms near St. John, Wash., says farms, forests and ranches can provide 25% of the nation's energy supply by 2025 while still providing food, feed and fiber.
Thanks to emerging technology, our farms, ranches and forests can produce a new generation of transportation fuels; harness wind, solar and geothermal energy; and convert animal manure and biomass into high-value energy products, explains co-chair Bill Richards, who farms near Circleville, Ohio.
"Technological breakthroughs are dramatically changing the ways we can produce energy from biomass," Richards says. "This is not your father's ethanol."