Advanced Biofuels USA - A Statement from the Director

Advanced Biofuels USA is a new trade association for the biofuels industry that fills a real need. Much of innovation and research activity in biofuels is occurring outside of the established industries of corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel, but the companies involved in such innovation have had no representation up until now. I view this as a very encouraging development. Dan Sweeney, Editor

“Hang together or surely we will hang alone.” Ben Franklin wrote this on the eve of the American Revolution.

This advice applies to everyone now who supports advanced, non-food biofuels and is working to see them become a substantial, sustainable part of the transportation energy equation for the rest of this century. Another American revolution, if you will.

Following Mr. Franklin’s advice, we formed Advanced Biofuels USA to bring together growers, producers, researchers, and consumers to tell their stories and represent their interest in the emerging advanced biofuels industry before Congress and the Administration.

Just as advanced biofuels are starting to make real headway on both legislative and technical fronts, an avalanche of adverse publicity is released. Wild allegations in mainstream media outlets such as Time magazine claim that worldwide food shortages and extraordinary food price increases are due primarily, if not solely, to “biofuels.”

Who can possibly benefit from this media blitz? Consider this. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has just begun a $45 million a year effort to promote coal as a “Green” energy. The nuclear power and coal industries have financed a group called the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization to tell their supposedly “green” story to Congress.

These are formidable and well-financed adversaries, so what can we do? Fortunately we have good science and hard working people on our side. Advanced Biofuels USA, on behalf of and with the participation of its members, will explain the benefits of biofuels with regard to energy security, climate change and sustainability. We will provide quality, science-based answers to questions about every aspect of biofuel production, from land-use and food prices to fuel quality and energy use.

Working together, we can stop this campaign to discredit all biofuels and return the focus of decision makers to helping the advanced biofuels industry become an environmental and economically sustainable contributor to energy security and climate change reduction.

As most people working in advanced biofuels know we still have many technical hurdles to overcome.

On April 28, 2008, in his annual address, Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, clearly presented the challenge.

“A major goal is to derive petroleum substitutes from plant matter other than food crops which would be approximately carbon-neutral. Microbiological processes enhanced by molecular biology comprise many potential advanced pathways toward creating liquid biofuels such as alcohols. In such advanced processes, efficient use of normally recalcitrant material like plant cellulose and lignins must be made. Progress from this laboratory-based biological research is needed to obtain higher biofuel yields which justify inputs of energy, fertilizer, water and land.”

The goal of Advanced Biofuels USA is to show decision makers, voters, and the media that we are addressing these challenges with good science and sound business practices. We will also show that many different paths to a sustainable biofuels future are needed. We will tell the story that biofuels will be produced from algae as well as forest product residues. We will show how advanced biofuels will replace petroleum based fuels ranging from military jetfuel to automotive gasoline. We will show how researchers, farmers, forestry professionals, aquiculture developers, and many others are not only working to make these goals a reality but also making important contributions to their local economies.

Advanced Biofuels USA will also address the challenges the industry has in obtaining financing. Specifically, we will work with members to accomplish the following: 1) make the creation of a sustainable advanced biofuels industry a national security priority, 2) rationalize government policy on advanced biofuels so the investment community can chart a long-term investment strategy, 3) increase Federal research funding to a level commensurate with a national security priority, and 4) focus Federal funding on “valley of death” gaps such as early stage prototypes and high risk/high reward basic research that are ineligible for other sources of funds.

Advanced Biofuels USA will give individuals, farm coops, start-up companies, and large producers a chance to work together to advance their common goals. Bob Kozak, president of Atlantic Biomass Conversions, and a founding member, hopes other companies on the cutting-edge of technology will come on board. “All of us working in the trenches know we need help telling our story in Washington but we don’t have the time or money to do it right. I think Advanced Biofuels USA will be a great ‘force-multiplier’ for us all.”

Advanced Biofuels USA was specifically formed as a 501(c)5 organization in order to represent agriculture’s perspective on advanced biofuel development to Congressional and Executive Branch decision-makers, from crop cultivation to process R&D.

With a new Administration taking office in January 2009 and oil prices staying over $100/barrel, action on energy initiatives will be hot and heavy in next two years. This is the time to lay the ground work for the new Congress, We want to make sure farmers, foresters, processors, and researchers will be part of the conversation on everything from R&D funding to Federal land use policy.

Working together, the members of Advanced Biofuels USA can paint a picture of a future with exciting technological and social benefits brought about by working in agriculture and aquiculture, a future where science is again extolled for helping humanity and restoring the environment. This is a tall order. But, it can be achieved with lots of work; lots of determination; and belief that the imaginable is possible.

Joanne Ivancic is the Executive Director of Advanced Biofuels USA. She has lived and worked in the Washington area for 30 years. She graduated from George Washington University National Law Center, worked for Senator Charles Grassley under his chairmanship of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and has served as a lobbyist for Atlantic Biomass Conversions, Inc., promoting biofuels research and production on Capitol Hill and with executive agencies. She is licensed to practice law in Washington, DC; Virginia; and Utah.