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Amid a partisan atmosphere U.S. President Barack Obama pushes for progress on both climate change and biofuels legislation.  (Source: Hybrid Cars)
Amid doubts about climate change legislation, Obama is focusing on biofuels as a way of greening our nation

Under President George W. Bush, Democrats and Republicans found some common ground in alternative energy.  While not all their solutions were practical (corn ethanol being one particularly impractical push), there was some progress.  Now bickering along partisan lines has dissolved that commonality, bringing the legislation necessary to make a green push of any kind into question.

Amid that formidable atmosphere President Obama is trying to get our nation's green efforts back on course.  Rather than focus solely on carbon controls, our nation should also turn its attention back to biofuels, President Obama said at a recent meeting with state governors at the White House.  His remarks followed comments on global warming, biofuels, and nuclear energy delivered in his State of the Union address.

Currently, a 2007 energy bill passed under President George W. Bush calls for 36 billion gallons of biofuel to be produced in the U.S. by 2022.  However, the incentives to help push that bill have evaporated and many biofuel companies have folded after tax credits expired in January.  The result is an increasingly bleak prospect of making the benchmarks set out in the energy bill.

The nation must get back on track, says Obama.  The White House writes in a recently released 14-page report (Scribd format), "This is a substantial goal, but one that the U.S. can meet or beat. However, past performance and business as usual will not get us there. Today, only 12 billion gallons of biofuels are produced annually."

Where as the nation is quite close to achieving the 15 billion gallons of the much-maligned corn ethanol proposed by the energy bill, the nation isn't anywhere near the 21 billion gallons that is supposed to be coming from alternative sources.  These sources -- sugar cane ethanol from the southwest, cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass, and cellulosic ethanol from crop waste -- seem the most promising, but commercial deployment has been slow.

Obama's departments of agriculture and energy along with the EPA are being pushed to work together to speed up this process.  While the plan was scant on details on how this would occur, it did promise increased loan guarantees to promote non-corn ethanol.  One potential shortcoming of the plan is its lack of focus on algae technology.  Algae is considered by many in the industry as one of the most promising biofuel feedstocks, but the word "algae" only appears twice in the report.

Despite the report's shortcomings Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President and CEO Jim Greenwood praised Obama's support, stating, "Building biorefineries that utilize biotechnology to transform many types of renewable feedstocks into biofuels and bio-based chemicals can create thousands of jobs in the next few years. These jobs would be created not just in the fuels and chemicals sector, but also in farming and rural areas, construction and engineering, and advanced research and development. The technology is ready, and the United States leads in the development of innovative biotechnology solutions. What has held the industry back in the current economy is the need for capital and investment."

He says that creating biofuel refineries and production facilities can create 29,000 new jobs and $5.5B USD in economic growth by 2012 and 800,000 new jobs by 2022.  These numbers come from a recent report (PDF) by the Bio Economic Research Associates, an industry organization.

Even with his focus on biofuels, President Obama isn't giving up on climate change legislation.  Among other initiatives, he's pushing coal plants to adopt carbon-capture technologies.  He stated at the recent meeting, "Today I'm announcing a carbon capture and storage task force that will be charged with ... figuring out how we can deploy affordable clean coal technology.  We want to get up 10 commercial demonstration projects -- get those up and running by 2016."

He envisions such technologies as being widespread within 10 years.  Many hurdles remain, though -- the foremost of which are the high costs and lower power output that capture technologies currently inflict.  Also, many argue that storing carbon underground is an unproven method that could backfire if geological events release the gas.

In his recent address, President Obama announced plans to explore nuclear energy expansion as a strategy to fight climate change.

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Economic Ignorance.
By porkpie on 2/4/2010 1:09:30 AM , Rating: 4
"He says that creating biofuel refineries and production facilities can 29,000 new jobs"

As long as I'm spending taxpayer money, I can create one million jobs overnight. Hire 500,000 people to throw paper confetti in the air...and another 500,000 people to pick it all up. Would that help our economy? ...or would it just waste a few billion $$ in salaries?

Creating jobs is easy. Creating jobs that are actually good for the economy and nation is a lot tougher. These "green" jobs that only exist because of government subsidies and mandates are harmful, not helpful.

When biofuel technology has actually progressed to the point that it's useful, it'll stand on its own. Until then, the government should do nothing but fund research. Pushing some tech before its ready for prime time does much more harm than good.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By rdawise on 2/4/10, Rating: 0
RE: Economic Ignorance.
By rdawise on 2/4/10, Rating: 0
RE: Economic Ignorance.
By mindless1 on 2/4/2010 4:16:18 AM , Rating: 2
Let's re-examine your example. The tax burden ends up raising unemployment rates for useful jobs as well as creating useless jobs. We reduce our exports as we then consume more GDP ourselves which was the problem in the first place.

The problem is the American mentality that excessive consumption can be had on credit, and I am American so realize I'm not bashing some foreign country or stereotyping so much as I am seeing it all day every day.

There are two kinds of useful (New) jobs.

1) Develop national infrastructure that has long-term value, for example nuclear power plants.

2) Increase exports

There is one kind of totally wrong job, even worse than confetti throwers or gatherers: Throwing feels-good-to-be-green money at projects that don't have a chance at all of doing anything but being a huge money pit, and maybe decreasing the rate of global pollution by an amount so trivial we end up causing even more pollution having to backtrack and come up with new ways to get the same things done.

Essentially, the US needs a three prong plan:

Work more efficiently.
Consume less.
Export more.

Everything else is just a shell game.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 2/4/2010 3:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
You have to factor in the strategic significance of energy independence, or at least less dependence on those countries that just happen to have all the resources and a contrary political agenda. We already spend billions on strategic assets with no hope of ever getting a return (DOD). This is no different.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By JediJeb on 2/5/2010 10:45:16 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, it is like paying someone to use a bucket to bail out a sinking boat, and they manage to remove just enough water to keep it afloat, where you could have spent less money to put a plug in the hole and fixed the leak.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By nafhan on 2/4/2010 10:41:55 AM , Rating: 2
Bad in the long term = bad. Unless the short term gain can be turned around into a long term gain, it's not good, period. It's throwing money away, which is the parent's point.
The government can create jobs in areas that will have long term positive effects, for example improvements to national infrastructure or money spent on research. Hiring people to do busy work helps those people only until the money runs out, and it hurts everyone in the long and short terms. Look at how much interest the US pays on it's national debt each year if you don't believe me about it hurting everyone in the long run.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By porkpie on 2/4/2010 11:01:39 AM , Rating: 3
"Let's look at your example. You've hired the 1 million people, who have now earned a paycheck where as before then didn't have one. You now have turned them into potiental consumers. They some their money..."

You've forgotten one crucial fact. The billions of dollars needed to hire those people didn't magically appear. It was taken from taxpayers, who then have billions less to spend. They spend less...and if they're businesses, they hire fewer people. Plus, you've just taken one million out of the productive workforce (where they could be producing goods and services we actually want and need), so total productivity drops even further.

Your belief is similar to the small child who covers his eyes to protect himself, believing if he can't see someone, then they can't see him either. You can't create something from nothing. Taking resources from productive entities to give to unproductive ones is...unproductive. Truly I'm shocked that this isn't more self-evident to some people.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By Schrag4 on 2/4/2010 12:00:23 PM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that even if the goverment jobs produced just as much as the private-sector jobs for the same dollar, the government introduces overhead meaning less of that money will go to the producers (and therefore less ultimately spent in the economy).

What people should realize (and many do, just not nearly enough) is that the government really doesn't care about producing anything of value, and the private sectors cares about nothing EXCEPT the value that their hard-earned dollars can be spent to produce. If we truly want the best for our economy, we should be asking the government to directly create as few jobs as possible (or better yet fire 90% of itself). They can do very little for us that the private sector cannot do better for less money.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By Reclaimer77 on 2/4/2010 7:56:43 PM , Rating: 2
No, I don't think you understand. The Government does not have an income, every penny they have they take from us. The Government can't produce. The Government can't create jobs without taking the funding and resources from someone else that is / could create jobs himself. Every penny the government borrows and spends is a penny taken from the private sector.

Obama doesn't seem to understand that the Government's role isn't to "create jobs" because it's simply not able to. The best thing the Government can do to create jobs is to get out of the private sectors way and let it do what it does best. The Government can't create or produce, but it CAN create a positive environment for businesses so they CAN create and produce. Look around, can you honestly say that if you owned a business right now that you would feel this is a positive and secure time ? And that you would feel safe taking the risk of hiring and/or expanding ??

This is such a simple American truism, it's apple pie and baseball. But so many people, including the President, don't seem to get this. The Government cannot fix every problem, and the Government will NEVER drive our economy. People do.

( And yes, I'm well aware recessions happen. But how is trading year long recessions for decade long depressions where 10% unemployment is "normal" any better ?? )

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By rdawise on 2/4/2010 10:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
Wow such a respone, please allow me to respond.

First, both candidates Obama and McCain were trying to "create jobs".

I understand all too well. I realize that the Government cannot create jobs that's why I said "investment" instead of "make". Investments imply a return (to "us"). It's interesting you state "the Government will NEVER drive our economy" because I agreed. The reasoning behind these jobs is to allow people to make money so they can drive the economy again.

Do you know what ends a recession or depression? It's people spending money. (Note I said people not Gov't). In a recession do think a business will expand or hire without SOME kind of stimulation? Why would they. The goal of business is to be as lean as can be while maximizing profits. If people are not able to consume, business keeps getting leaner, recessions/depression deepen.

Don't believe me? Ask yourself how much longer the Great depression would have been without the War and FDR new programs. In the War the governemt used tax payer money to create those wartime jobs. People became consumers again. Do you have an example of the private sector righting itself?

Please realize that the economy is not a checkbook.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By Reclaimer77 on 2/5/2010 12:57:27 AM , Rating: 1
Do you have an example of the private sector righting itself?

Reagan was facing a recession almost as bad as ours was last year. He got the country out of it with TAX CUTS and less government spending.

There are countless examples. Hell what about 911 ?? Do you realize our stock market lost a TRILLION dollars overnight ? I don't remember a "stimulus" being passed to recover from that.

Please realize that the economy is not a checkbook.

What is this condescending bullshit ? Do you really believe we're saying that, or is that your little "take that" tagline ?

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By WW102 on 2/5/2010 9:25:19 AM , Rating: 2
Do you know what ends a recession or depression? It's people spending money.

Do you know how retarded that sounds? Once again we cant spend our way to prosperity. Its not people spending money that ends the recession, people spending money is a sign that the recession is ending.

The recession ends when the market rights itself. It ends when waste is eliminated and we come lean and efficient.

RE: Economic Ignorance.
By Bruneauinfo on 2/4/2010 9:33:13 AM , Rating: 2
did you not see in the article where incentives have dried up? the reason the product (other than corn ethanol) hasn't been created is because the subsidies have disappeared - which the article states. so it appears the government is doing exactly what you're suggesting - trying to help get a product to the market through "loans" which have to be paid back. loans would go to research perhaps? beyond that there aren't any details in this article about government handouts - yet.

we may yet produce a gasoline substitute more efficiently than mother nature. then Middle East watch out! :P

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