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Massachusetts Biofuel Plan Could Undercut Work Of Local Biotech Companies

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 25, 2009
Massachusetts' implementation plan for its Biofuels Mandate excludes biofuels made from renewable biomass being researched and developed by Massachusetts companies. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has urged the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to accept applications for qualifying advanced biofuels from biofuel producers using all sources of renewable biomass, which have been shown to considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial and Environmental Section, stated, "By permitting only biofuels made from waste feedstocks under its mandate, Massachusetts is preventing its own biotech companies from deploying their advanced technology to turn other sources of renewable biomass into advanced biofuels.

"The decisions released by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources will have a detrimental effect on Massachusetts' considerable bioscience industry, which employs millions of Massachusetts workers and attracts a tremendous amount of investment to the state.

"I am sure this effort is based on good intentions, but it sets a very bad precedent by excluding some of the most sustainable renewable resources from being utilized to make cleaner and greener transportation fuels. Massachusetts has several biotech companies that are leading the way to making advanced biofuels from very sustainable feedstocks. We are surprised to see the state disadvantage its own companies.

"Preliminary analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that many biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the 50 percent threshold in the Massachusetts law. The EPA's analysis even identifies use of biotechnology as one of the aspects of its 'best-case scenario.'

"However, the EPA's analysis of lifecycle emissions from biofuels are based on a model whose calculations are highly dependent on vague assumption. We believe Massachusetts may be making a grave mistake to cut off promising avenues of research and commercialization of advanced biofuels based on the preliminary results of this model."

The implementation plan released by Massachusetts' Department of Energy Resources says that applications for qualifying advanced biofuels will only be accepted for biofuels derived from waste feedstocks.

Massachusetts law defines waste feedstocks as previously used or discarded material from industrial, commercial or household food service activities, including animal waste, animal by-products, organic portions of municipal solid waste, grease trap waste, construction and demolition debris.

Other forms of renewable biomass - agricultural crop residues such as corn cobs, dedicated energy crops such as switch grass or other grasses, or algae - are therefore excluded.

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