This document contains WRI's responses to questions from the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on the impacts that biofuels promotion, especially ethanol, might contribute to energy security and efforts to combat climate change.

Executive Summary

Biofuels promotion is part of a larger government effort to address the complex issues of climate change and energy security: the environmental, economic, and security implications of our reliance on fossil fuels. Biofuel seems to be a win-win: it is both a “home-grown” substitute for petroleum-based fuels in the transport sector, and as it is derived from biomass, its “tank to-wheel” emissions are far friendlier to the atmosphere relative to fossil fuels. However, behind the term ‘biofuel’ lies a multitude of different fuels derived from organic materials. The actual impact of these fuels in terms of fossil fuel consumption and emissions reductions, as well as other agriculture-related environmental impacts, depends heavily on the feedstocks and the conversion processes used to produce the fuel. Policies to promote a US biofuels industry must be carefully designed if we are to minimize such negative impacts.