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Sustainable Biofuels Redux

This is an article from Science Magazine from October 2008. Science-based policy is essential for guiding an environmentally sustainable approach to cellulosic biofuels. The May 2008 passage of the 2008 Farm Bill raises the stakes for biofuel sustainability: A substantial subsidy for the production of cellulosic ethanol starts the United States again down a path with uncertain environmental consequences. This time, however, the subsidy is for both the refiners ($1.01 per gallon) and the growers ($45 per ton of biomass), which will rapidly accelerate adoption and place hard-to-manage pressures on efforts to design and implement sustainable production practices—as will a 2007 legislative mandate for 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year by 2022. Similar directives elsewhere, e.g., the European Union’s mandate that 10% of all transport fuel in Europe be from renewable sources by 2020, make this a global issue. The European Union’s current reconsideration of this target places even more emphasis on cellulosic feedstocks (1). The need for knowledge- and science-based policy is urgent.

Robertson G. Philip
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G. Philip Robertson
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Michigan State University
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Bioenergy Category
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