Scientists speak out for biodiesel as part of sensible energy strategy

By NBB | February 28, 2012

Biodiesel has a unique and powerful story when it comes to sustainability. In fact, you could easily argue that it is the most sustainable liquid fuel available today.

Word is getting out that science is on biodiesel’s side. In February, experts called for increased usage of biofuels and biodiesel in North America. The scientists, academics and economic analysts were gathered in Orlando, Fla., for the “Sustainability Symposium on Renewable and Transportation Fuels,” part of the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. The USDA and U.S. DOE organized the symposium that was included with conference registration. NBB’s Sustainability Program was central to coordinating this unique effort to assemble scientists from a wide range of disciplines to look at all aspects of the biodiesel industry.

A central theme was that common solutions exist to increase food and energy security simultaneously, while providing economic and environmental benefits to society. 

“We need to start thinking of agriculture as multifunctional,” said Stephen Kaffka of the University of California-Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

Worldwide, bioenergy done correctly can be part of the solution to address food insecurity and poverty, said Keith Kline of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Reducing crop price volatility benefits both producers and consumers, which biofuels accomplish through diversifying and expanding production and markets. When biofuels increase incomes and build resilience for rural families, they help ensure a lasting food supply. 

Robert Zubrin, author of Energy Victory, gave a passionate speech on how dependence on foreign oil threatens national security.

“Today, we are 60 percent dependent on imported oil and spend more on imported oil than we spend on national defense. It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” Zubrin said.

Of course, central to biodiesel’s appeal is its positive impact on the environment. The experts vouched for the life-cycle analysis used to demonstrate biodiesel’s emissions reductions as very comprehensive, including indirect emissions. Science shows that biodiesel maintains a significant greenhouse gas benefit, even when held to a higher standard than conventional fuels.

Ultimately, biofuels fit well into a comprehensive energy policy, the experts said. A sustainable and cleaner energy source that boosts American jobs and displaces billions of gallons of foreign oil can help guide the nation toward a more secure energy future.

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