percent in ten years. At the time of the Forum, other ambitious energy goals were being debated.1 These quantitative goals are an important force driving not only research and development expenditures, but also the market for biofuels.

One goal of the Federal Forum was to share information about current R&D in biofuels, which was accomplished in part through descriptions of state-of-the-art examples by different agencies, but also through group discussions. In addition to learning about existing and proposed federal activities, Forum attendees were encouraged to identify linkages and gaps in biofuels R&D, and to begin the discussion of how to take advantage of possible synergies.


Dan Kammen, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, opened the biofuels session by describing some of the emerging issues associated with biofuels and the implications of biofuels production and use for sustainability. He focused on the need to consider biofuels as part of a broad energy policy, to take a holistic view; to recognize that corn based ethanol is not likely to be a viable long term solution to increasing energy independence but a short term transitional fuel. He emphasized the need to use a portfolio approach to meeting America’s long term energy needs recognizing that increasing supplies of conventional and non-conventional energy and significantly improving energy efficiency must be part of the overall strategy.

Kammen talked about a number of different approaches that could be used to assess the costs and benefits of biofuels and to guide future energy policies and energy investments. He noted that one tool is the current federal renewable fuel standard. However, he suggested that a low carbon fuel standard or a sustainable fuels standard based on expanded life cycle assessment tools is likely to be a better means of assessing alternative energy choices. He discussed the need to address the effects of biofuels production on land use changes as well as a broad range of environmental effects beyond any potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions such as water quality and quantity, air pollution, soil erosion and sedimentation, and biodiversity loss. In addition, Kammen highlighted some of the social and economic effects both domestically and internationally. For example, the shift of corn-based biofuels has led to increases in prices of food such as corn-based products and meat and diary products. Diversion of land from soybeans to corn has shifted production to other countries where production practices may be damaging to the environment. Kammen suggested that any assessment of biofuels must take a holistic view, looking at all benefits and costs. For example, we need


The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) was passed in December 2007, setting a goal of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement