I am a recent graduate of William and Mary with a double major in environmental science and policy and public policy. I will be an energy blogger. How can the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil? Is green technology going to happen sooner than we think? What kind of message is needed to sell individuals on the need to stop drill baby drill? These are some of the questions I'd like to ex...
Should the Obama Administration Embrace Biofuels?
It is true biofuels help the economy, are homegrown largely, and can at the very least reduce the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil. That is the good news about biofuels and one that both the Administration and the American public should embrace. However, Secretary Vilsack seems to embrace biofuels like the next best thing since sliced bread without specifying which ones he will use and without acknowledging the potential contributions to climate change, even if it is relatively small. It is entirely different when we discuss corn ethanol on the one hand or stalks of grasses on the other hand. Since Vilsack isn't very specific about which biofuel he is talking about, it is impossible to fully embrace biofuels all-together.
Crops such as corn have many problems for which a total embrace is not warranted by the American public or the Obama administration. In his very announcement, Secretary Vilsack only highlighted with respect to biofuels that "The Obama administration is aggressively supporting our nation's farmers, ranchers and producers of biofuels as they work to bring greater energy independence." That is clearly a vague statement and does not address the fundamental issue at hand which is that biofuels encompass a lot of crops at hand. In particular, some biofuels are not very energy intensive while others are such as corn. If by biofuels, Vilsack is primarily talking about corn, then embracing biofuels may not be as exciting since the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during that process is quite high. After all, the pesticides and fertilizers used in agricultural production are fossil fuel based and thus "energy independence" may not be achieved if that is what he is referring to with his embrace of fossil fuels.
Biofuels that involve switchgrass, waste products and energy, however, should be fully embraced looked into further. If the Obama Administration is looking at that further, that is certainly a positive development in the U.S.'s first of many steps to become energy independent. However, from Secretary Vilsack's statements, it is unclear whether that is the route that is going to be taken by the Obama Administration. Lets hope that is the case because then we can fully embrace biofuels.
Photo Credit: Mangrove Mike on Flickr