Biofuel Sustainability Embraced by US Department of Energy: National Biofuels Action Plan Unveiled

sugar cane field photo

photo: Phil

While much of the thinking on first generation biofuels of late hasn't been entirely encouraging, the US Department of Energy still has a soft spot for biofuels in general and the agency has just announced a National Biofuels Action Plan which hopes to encourage the development of sustainable biofuels. Developed in response to President Bush's "Twenty in Ten" plan to reduce gasoline consumption by 20% over the next ten years, the plan was development by the DOE in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture.

Although the plan doesn't aim to establish hard sustainability criteria like those proposed by several third party programs, it is encouraging to see that the DOE at least is thinking about sustainability and biofuels. The details of the NBAP are as follows:The DOE has identified seven action areas for the National Biofuels Action Plan.


A working group led by USDA, DOE, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is defining science-based national criteria, which will be established by November 2008, and indicators to assess the sustainability of biofuels production coordinated with ongoing international activities.

Feedstock Production
A Board-commissioned interagency working group conducted a feedstock availability and cost study using EISA production targets. A separate Board working group is developing a long-term integrated feedstock research and development plan across the federal government, which will reach completion by December 2008.

Feedstock Logistics
A working group led by USDA will facilitate collaboration to develop and deploy logistics systems that can supply cellulosic feedstocks to demonstration facilities.

Conversion Science and Technology
A working group composed of DOE, USDA, EPA, National Science Foundation (NSF), and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is collaborating to develop a 10-year federal science and technology research plan by December 2008 for developing cost-effective means of biomass conversion and production of cellulosic biofuels.

Distribution Infrastructure
A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-led group is studying the feasibility of transporting ethanol in pipelines and assessing the availability of geographic information system (GIS) capabilities across agencies.

The Board has approved a statement on blending ethanol with gasoline in amounts greater than 10 percent (E10) and will review results of an interagency testing program to evaluate the impact of intermediate blends on vehicle emissions and material compatibility by fall 2008.

Environment, Health and Safety
An EPA-led working group is inventorying federal activities and areas of jurisdiction with respect to public health, safety, and environmental protection.

In announcing the Plan, DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman said, "Federal leadership can provide the vision for research, industry and citizens to understand how the nation will become less dependent on foreign oil and create strong rural economies. This National Biofuels Action Plan supports the drive for biofuels growth to supply energy that is clean and affordable, and always renewable."

More at US Department of Energy
Sustainable Biofuels
Have Your Say: Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels Requests Comment on Sustainability Criteria
Sustainable Biofuels Alliance Sets Out Draft Principles for Sustainability Practices
The Nitty Gritty of Sustainable Biodiesel

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