Biomass: Fueling Tomorrow

We all need it. Now, more than ever, we need more of it.

Fuel – It’s a double-edged sword. It operates society, yet its creation can be considered by some to be problematic to society.

To meet the demand for renewable fuels, a fuel source that is heralded for its eco-friendly bases and sustainability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) subsidizes farmers who produce non-food crops that can be used to create fuel.

BCAP is designed to advocate for the establishment of a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops in anticipation of future demand for renewable energy consumption.

“Domestic production of renewable energy, including biofuels, is a national imperative,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “That’s why USDA is working to assist in developing a biofuels industry in every corner of the nation.”

The Renewable Fuels Association states that the U.S. will use about 138 billion gallons of gasoline this year. The Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that the U.S. use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually by 2022. To help achieve this standard, the use of biofuels, including corn-based ethanol and soybean-derived biodiesel, is imperative.

As part of the 2008 Farm Bill Program, BCAP has a two-pronged approach to support renewable fuel production that will reduce reliance on imported oil and boost rural economies:

1. Provides matching payments for the transportation of certain eligible materials that are sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities to assist both agricultural and forest landowners and operators

2. Provides assistance for the establishment and production of eligible renewable biomass crops within specified project areas

BCAP Quick Facts
  • Payments up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing eligible perennial crops
  • Payments up to 15 years for woody perennial crops
  • Annual payments up to five years for growing annual or perennial herbaceous or non-woody crops
  • Increased costs for refiners related to use of the new biomass crops will be paid up to $281.5 million that remains from the 2008 Farm Act
  • Biomass or biofuel production plants must be certified with the Farm Service Agency for the farmers to claim the payments
Increased use of ethanol and biodiesel in the fuel supply is a step toward the progressive use of renewable fuels.

Recently, The Environmental Protection Agency approved increasing concentrations of ethanol blended with gasoline for U.S. vehicles made in 2007 and later to 15 percent from 10 percent. A decision about whether to extend that ruling to cars built from 2001 to 2006 will come next month after more testing, reports a Bloomberg story.

Additionally, Vilsack noted that Congress should help build the biofuel industry by “reinstating the Biodiesel Production Tax Credit and providing a fiscally responsible short-term extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC),” as reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

A federal tax credit that provided blenders of biodiesel $1 for every gallon produced is expired, while a federal tax credit that provided blenders of ethanol 45 cents for every gallon produced (VEETC) expires Dec. 31, 2010.

BCAP facilitates biofuel’s potential to help America assert its energy security. I hope it continues to foster more positive strides regarding renewable-fuel use.

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