Growing first and second generation renewable fuels

As Congress holds hearings, Members must ask themselves: should we cleave to the status quo or pursue innovative new energy sources? Can Americans live with massive oil spills or do they deserve access to cleaner, safer fuel sources? And lastly, should consumers continue to hand their hard-earned money over to the oil monopoly or will they instead be able to reap the benefits of fuel diversity?

The oil lobby is trying to obscure with half-truths those very real choices for our energy future.  The good news is that the RFS, if left intact, will keep generating future groundbreaking renewable fuel options for all consumers – who will benefit from savings at the pump. The innovation that produced first-generation renewable fuel paved the way for the advanced fuels being developed and commercially-scaled today. However, the key to ensuring future growth is continued investment and support from companies, including traditional ethanol producers, and the market confidence derived from a strong, stable federal policy: the RFS. 

Traditional ethanol producers are not only making significant contributions to consumers in this country — by helping to reduce the cost of gas and displacing oil imports by 10% – but they have also developed a new biorefining capability in this nation.

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This capability, which has been developed to such a high level that the American ethanol industry now supports over 365,000 jobs, comes from years of technological development, research, and proven ability to scale up volumes and bring down prices. This skill set makes first generation renewable fuel companies perfect candidates to tackle the challenge of creating large volumes of cellulosic renewable fuel. Companies like Novozymes are working with first and second generation renewable fuel producers to produce fuel more efficiently, and with farmers to help increase yields and develop hardier crops.

Protecting the RFS means we can build on our success and keep developing the next generation of renewable fuels. First and second generation fuels go hand-in-hand: we can’t have one without the other, and integral to the growth of both is the support of the RFS. We’re standing on the pioneering work of innovators, investors and producers that grew America’s domestic renewable fuel supply by 3700% over the last three decades. Renewable fuels have already added $40 billion to America’s gross domestic product.
RFS opponents would rather halt this progress and the industry’s innovation. We can’t let that happen. 

Companies like San Francisco-based NexSteppe are pioneering the next generation of scalable, sustainable and cost-effective feedstock solutions for renewable fuel. We develop and commercialize dedicated energy crops like sweet and high biomass sorghum that use less water, are not food crops and can be grown on marginal land. Strong and consistent policies that promote the development and production of first and second generation biofuels has made Brazil, one of our other principal markets, a leader in biofuel production. We need to protect the one U.S. policy that is successfully bringing renewable fuel to the market here and giving U.S. consumers a choice; the RFS.  Without the RFS the renewable fuels business may migrate outside the U.S.—and the jobs it creates and the investments we make will follow.

Investors will finance a product when they know there will be a market for it. The RFS creates that market for renewable fuel, setting annual targets for both first and second generation fuels. The stable policy is the reason that so many individual companies have decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars each within our borders, creating American jobs.

Shaking the strong policy that the RFS provides would not only harm existing first generation producers, but it would be a disaster for the growing cellulosic and advanced sectors in the United States.   

We in the industry will continue to invest, innovate, create jobs, and lower fuel prices at the pump for American consumers but we need policy makers to hold up their end of the bargain struck in 2007. We need to choose a cleaner energy future.  

Rath is CEO of NexSteppe, a second generation renewable fuel company; Monroe is regional president of Novozymes North America, that makes enzymes for both first and second generation renewable fuels.