Senate Bill Would Level Playing Field for Algae Biofuels

US Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Tom Udall (D-NM) recently introduced bipartisan legislation to help level the playing field for advanced biofuels like algae by reforming the Renewable Fuels Standard to make it more "technology neutral."

The Renewable Fuels Standard currently applies mostly to ethanol made from corn – it requires 15 billion gallons a year by 2015 – and there’s a separate advanced biofuels standard called RFS2.

The biofuels standard applies mostly to cellulosic biofuels, creating an uneven playing field for other promising advanced biofuels like algae, the Senators say.

The Udall-Crapo bill simplifies the RFS2 by making this category "technology neutral," opening it to all advanced biofuels, including cellulosic, algae, and other technologies, at the same 21 billion gallon standard by 2022.

"Now more than ever, America needs a national energy plan that ensures we have access to reliable, affordable and cleaner domestic energy. Algae has been credited as a very promising feedstock in our quest for national energy independence, and its inclusion in the Renewable Fuel Standard will get us one step closer to that goal," Crapo says.

An Algal Biomass Organization study of companies in the field finds that legislative parity between algae and other advanced biofuels could create over 200,000 green jobs by 2022, compared to 50,000 without legislative parity.

Algae biofuels differ from cellulosic in that they produce oils as a feedstock, rather than cellulose or sugar from photosynthesis. The oil can be extracted and converted into fuels like traditional gasoline and high energy density fuels like diesel or jet fuel.

Udall announced plans to introduce the legislation in August after touring New Mexico State University’s Energy Research Laboratory, home to the Algal Bioenergy Program. The university is part of a consortium with Los Alamos National Lab and 16 other entities that are using a $49 million grant from the Department of Energy to study commercialization of algae-based fuel.

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