Where Did Our Biofuels Champion Go?

Last night, in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he said, “we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.” Was he mentioning biofuels? Why is there a case of ambiguity?

When did biofuels become taboo? Even in his 2015 State of the Union address, Obama said, “converting sunlight into liquid fuel.” That sure sounded like biofuels. But, just as the case last night, why the ambiguity? Is the White House unable to say “biofuels?” And if that’s the case, how can they promote it?

This inconsistency has been prevalent with the messages that came out of the White House in 2015.

On one hand, the Obama administration’s USDA began a program to invest $100 million to expand blender pump infrastructure in the country, which in turn would increase access to E15 and E85. Then on the other hand, the administration’s EPA chose to set the 2016 RVOs lower than the requirements stipulated in the RFS.

No industry can operate on such inconsistent messaging.

Contrast this with the president’s approach to biofuels - Growing America’s Fuels – that was released in 2011.

It is an inspirational 10-page strategy of how the United States would transform the biofuels industry through time-tested American innovation. It had a vision of a homegrown industry that created jobs, brought economic stability and decreased dependence on foreign oil while decreasing carbon emissions.

They wanted to get the RFS targets back on track, and even exceed them. They saw an America in control of its energy future.

So, what has happened since then? That vision laid out in Growing America’s Fuels has become a reality yet the Obama administration seems to be distancing itself from biofuels.

What was once a complex plan that involved infrastructure development, management practices, supportive research, supply chain communication and overall system improvement, has been left in limbo.

Throughout the document, the administration talks about building confidence within the industry by having the federal government taking the lead.

From funding projects, to providing robust partnerships and establishing lead agency responsibility, federal leadership was the guiding principle.

What has become of that support? When was the last time the Obama administration placed biofuels at the center of its plan to reduce carbon emissions? Why wasn’t there a place on the table for biofuels at the recent COP21 Talks in Paris? How can the administration foster confidence in an industry that looks to it for guidance when year after year they present lower RVOs when it had once sought to exceed the original levels?

This abrupt abandonment of biofuels jeopardizes the industry worldwide and America’s role as leader of green energy.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognizes the role biofuels will play in reducing carbon emissions and achieving higher emission standards.

Thirty-six countries that participated in COP21 highlighted the use of biofuels to combat climate change. And 64 countries worldwide have biofuel policies in place in their Contribution Plans.

These countries are showing real commitment while we have stymied our progress.

We can speculate as to why we have gone backwards but we have to ask, where did our biofuels champion go?