New Paradigms Rising for Biofuels
by Douglas L. Faulkner (“The Cleantech Conservative”/Biofuels Digest) …Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is gaining political strength as its production (and fortunes) rise and conservatives win more elections.
Our diminishing reliance on foreign oil and the withering federal role in promoting green energy due to budget constraints will also correspondingly reduce the political clout of the bioenergy industry and undermine arguments for relying on Washington to “make” markets.
The latest “food versus fuel” imbroglio sparked by the current drought should fade in time, but political and other pressures against subsidies and preferential market treatment will only grow after the elections. Biofuel industry leaders should seize this fortuitous window of time while we wait for the newly-elected President to take office six months from now and open an unvarnished internal debate about what their industry really wants and needs from the federal government.
…These questions should be front-and-center:
• Can government ever successfully predict a production goal that matches market demands years into the future?
• Does the industry even need a federal mandate and for how much longer – – or are there other policy changes that might prove even more important in the critical years ahead?
• What will be the impacts of surging oil and gas production, rising engine efficiencies and growing demand in the developing world on global fuels markets?
• Can industry begin to build a true partnership with the oil and gas companies, as their attention shifts to more profitable fossil fuel extractions?
• Why is the biochemical/products industry taking off – – and is there a lesson to be embraced in the fact there is little federal interference with that market?
…At the same time, much deeper thought at the federal level should be given to the complex relationships between the global agriculture and energy sectors. The U.S. government is investing considerable resources in promoting food security in the developing world. These efforts will falter though unless access to energy markets for those farmers is increased, too. Exciting new approaches are emerging to promote both indigenous biofuels production and new farming practices in the developing world. The world will need to increase the productivity of each arable acre, provide sufficient demand for all that is harvested and promote increased trade.