Although conventional, corn-based ethanol is not the darling of the environmental movement, it does have certain national security benefits that cannot be overlooked. And the next generation of biofuels being developed across the country offer even greater opportunity to increase our energy independence.  During this lame duck session - and moving into the 112th - Congress has the opportunity to continue to help America achieve greater energy security and reduce our over-dependence on oil, especially oil from hostile nations, by supporting the continued domestic deployment of biofuels.

Biofuels help us make incremental progress on achieving some of our national security and energy security objectives.  Our transportation sector is 96 percent reliant on petroleum-based liquid fuels – gasoline and diesel, mostly.  And while wind, solar, and hydropower are all necessary to reduce our fossil-fuel consumption, none are substitutes for oil.  The United States - although a significant oil producer ourselves - still imports about two-thirds of the oil consumed domestically - about 546 million gallons every day.

Although conventional, corn-starch based-ethanol makes up the majority of the biofuels blended into gasoline, as required by federal law, new biofuels are coming. Second-generation biofuels that don't compete with food stocks and require much less water are soon being brought to commercial scale.  The 2007/2008 credit crunch put a hurt on the ability to build out those next-generation biofuels, but are since rebounding.  Energy companies are making massive investments into algae especially - but algae currently doesn't qualify for the same tax incentives as other biofuels. Congress should address that shortcoming this year if they intend to responsibly address this issue.

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Which brings up the third and most important point - support for biofuels should be a bi-partisan effort.  Democrats and Republicans can find common ground to support the national security objectives that biofuels are helping to achieve.  It helps farmers in the Midwest, technology development efforts in states like Pennsylvania and Montana, and it even keeps some on the left happy as well. Tax incentives that support biofuels are expiring - or have already expired.  Algae, which shows such a promising future, should enjoy the same incentives afforded to other biofuels.  In the short-run, Congress should continue to show support for these fuels to achieve our national security objectives by reducing our use of oil and take a close look at keeping those incentives in place.

In the long run, Congress will likely need to take a look at the requirements for how much biofuel is mixed with conventional fuel. Right now, we produce so much ethanol that we’re actually exporting 300 million gallons of it.  That same 300 million gallons could be used to offset 300 million gallons of gasoline from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.  Sure, it's a small step - but a step in the right direction nonetheless.  Even if lame this Congress should take it.

Steve Maddox is a former Marine Officer and Iraq War Veteran.  He is a graduate of Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management and a Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project.