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The Fuels of Tomorrow Are Here Today (So Let’s Use Them)

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Pop Quiz: How much did you spend on gas at your last fill up? Was it more than $4 a gallon? If your answer was “I don’t know,” you’re in good company. Gas prices are so volatile we’re lucky they don’t change between when we pull into the station and when we start pumping.

Our dependence on a dwindling supply of global oil deposits is at the heart of this volatility. And that oil dependence comes with other well-known costs to our economy, our security and our environment. Yet U.S. companies are rolling out innovative new technologies to take control of our energy future and dull those gas price spikes through the creation of domestic, low carbon fuels.

Ready to go

This technology is ready today, and government policies can help bring these clean domestic fuels to our local filling stations. Eleven states in the Northeast are considering the creation of a new Clean Fuels Standard.  These policies would set targets to increase the use of clean, low-carbon fuels in the coming years – making the region a leader in moving our country towards energy independence while creating jobs and taking critical action to address climate change.

Did I say jobs? A new study conducted by an association of Northeast air quality agencies found that a clean fuels standard could spark significant economic growth across the region by increasing the production of clean, local fuels.  Specifically, the study found that the clean fuels standard could achieve real economic and environmental benefits over the next decade, including creating up to 50,000 jobs per year and reducing the region’s dependence on oil by as much as 29 percent (read more on the study from NRDC’s Nathanael Greene).

Fuel from Trash

There are advanced biofuels companies in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire that are ready to step up and start making low carbon fuels from municipal waste and fast-growing grasses.  The recent turmoil in financial markets has been holding them back, but this policy sends a signal that helps them move forward.  This op-ed from Jacob Berman of advanced biofuels producer Incitor emphasizes the powerful impact a clean fuel standard could have in spurring development of these clean biofuels.

More than 1000 scientists including more than 300 from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have signed onto our statement on the need to get advanced biofuels out of the lab and into the marketplace.  Policies like this can do just that.

The Clean Fuel Standard would ensure that consumers can count on a steadily increasing percentage of their gas coming from these clean, local sources.  And by reducing our reliance on oil, we can insulate consumers from the volatility of oil prices—which are expected to trend upward as global demand outpaces available resources.  Taking measures now to ensure we have a steadily increasing supply of clean fuels is an important means of protecting US consumers, reducing oil dependence and tackling climate change.

Photo: Coskata

Posted in: Biofuel

About the author: Jeremy Martin is a scientist with expertise in the technology, lifecycle accounting, and water use of biofuels. He is working on policies to help commercialize the next generation of clean biofuels (made from waste and biomass rather than food) that can cut U.S. oil dependence and curb global warming. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry with a minor in chemical engineering. See Jeremy's full bio.

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