January 25, 2006
K.C. Golden Editorial on Biofuels silences critics
Published: January 22nd, 2006 02:30 AM
Columnist Richard Davis is right about one thing: Good intentions wont make biodiesel a success (TNT, 1-4).
But good policy and private enterprise will.
Gov. Chris Gregoires proposed renewable fuel standard with strong support on both sides of the political aisle and both sides of the mountains will build a stable, growing market for biofuels in Washington. It will turn our desire for energy security into a solid business proposition something that farmers and biofuel entrepreneurs can take to the bank.Energy independence is a big deal an enormous business opportunity that can boost farm income and reduce the drag on our economy from importing fossil fuels.Right now, Washingtons economy loses over $25 million every day in the form of oil and gas imports more than the state spends on public education. Weve got better things to do with that money, and building our own biofuel industry will help us get some of it back.Developing these industries means creating new enterprises, taking new risks, growing new crops. Competition for profits and jobs in the clean energy industries of the future will be intense. To succeed in these markets, we need a policy that says to the private sector that Washington is open for clean energy business. We need what amounts to a contract with the budding renewable fuel industry a policy that rewards private investment.The bipartisan energy independence bill will offer that kind of solid contract. It will create a stable, growing market for biofuel. It will unleash the private sector to do what it does best: invest and innovate and compete for market share. Its the kind of strong, decisive, market-building policy that will get us moving toward a more secure energy future.Opposition to this policy comes from a predictable source. Davis, whose think tank receives oil industry funding, cites the lone researcher who claims that biofuel production uses more energy than it produces.But he ignores the 11 other studies that have analyzed the issue in the last 15 years and reached the opposite conclusion: Biodiesel actually delivers more than three units of renewable energy for every unit of fossil fuel used in production.The net energy balance for ethanol made from wheat straw a major agricultural waste product in Eastern Washington is even better: 5 to 1.You can find straight answers to these and other questions about biofuels at www.independentfuels.org.Davis also objects to the energy independence bill by calling it a mandate. This is one of those words people use when they want you to react with your spleen instead of your brain. It provokes a you cant make me reaction, an impulse thats as American as the Boston Tea Party.But the really troubling mandate is this: We are being forced by bad public policy to pay the exorbitant costs of oil addiction at the pump, in the battlefields of the Middle East and in the growing toll from global warming.To reduce those costs, we can adopt a smarter policy that allows us to develop our enormous potential for domestic clean energy production.Nobodys going to make us do this. But if were tired of being whacked by the costs of fossil fuel dependence, we can change course. We can choose a brighter energy future.And seriously, when Davis cries mandate, what does he think those legislators are doing in Olympia anyway? Theyre writing laws. These laws are the essence of a stable democracy: We elect leaders who make decisions that represent commitments real, legally binding promises that we can count on.Stop signs, speed limits, protections against fraud and drunken drivers and child labor ... Davis could call any of these things mandates if he wants to gripe about them. But they are the will of the people, and we give them the force of law because were serious about them.So are we serious about energy independence or not? Breaking free of our oil addiction does take more than good intentions. It takes leadership. It takes commitment. It takes a strong policy framework for a successful, prosperous, domestic fuel market with real businesses and farmers making real money on the deal.Its no surprise that some oil companies wont support our states efforts to reduce petroleum dependence. But with a growing bipartisan consensus for a more secure energy future, we have reason to hope that our leaders will stand up for energy independence this year by passing the renewable fuel standard.
K.C. Golden is policy director for Climate Solutions, a Seattle-based partnership for practical, profitable solutions to global warming.
Posted by Martin at January 25, 2006 3:55 PM
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