House Committee Parses Biofuels’ Pros and Cons

By Published On: April 20, 2007

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 18 learned that while biofuels may help wean the country from dependence on imported fossil fuels, they are no panacea. Testimony revealed that some biofuels can be more damaging to the environment than the gasoline they would replace. “Strong environmental regulations are required. Not all biofuels are created equal,” Alex Farrell, director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, told Congress members. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) agreed, calling for across-the-board standards that recognize all fuels’ contribution to global warming. “I have qualms about developing a new industry that’s worse than gasoline,” he said. He added that coal-to-liquid fuels have 118 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. However, the energy independence aspect of using the nation’s abundant coal to make synthetic fuel has its adherents. “I’m tired of being held hostage” by the international fossil-fuel market, said John Shimkus (R-IL). He, along with other Midwestern representatives, underscored the contribution that coal-to-liquid technology could bring to the transportation fuel market. Representative Rick Boucher (R-VA) promised to introduce a bill this week to have the government help develop the industry. Except for greenhouse gas emissions, the coal-to-liquid fuel does better than current restrictions on levels of nitrogen oxides, sulfur, and particulate matter, said John Ward, Headwaters Inc. vice-president. “From well to wheel, carbon emissions are about the same, perhaps a little better,” he testified.

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