The U.S. Government says biofuels are an important part of the U.S. strategy for reducing America's dependence on oil and its emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Department of Energy estimates that thirteen million tons of greenhouse gases were avoided in 2007 due to biofuels production and use. Scientists there found that corn ethanol from the U.S. reduced gas emissions nineteen percent compared with gasoline, when the full "life cycle" of the fuel is considered – that is, from growing it, to producing the fuel, to burning it.
Advances in biofuels technology continue and cellulosic biofuels represent the next generation of biofuels. They are made from wood chips, switchgrass, [a grass native to North America] corn stover, [the leaves, stalk, and other remains of maize, once it is harvested], and other non-food sources. The use of these biofuels promise even more significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than corn-based ethanol – reductions of more than eighty-six percent compared with gasoline.
Assessments of sustainability are a key part of development work leading to increased efficiency in the production of biofuels, for both existing practices and future technologies. Recently, concern has been expressed about the effects of biofuels production on grain supply and food costs.
Today's biofuels account for only a small percentage of the increase in global food prices. Other factors are responsible for the majority of the increase. These include: higher oil and gas prices, leading to increased costs of fertilizer, harvest, and transportation; increased demand for food as developing countries grow and people improve their diets; two years of bad weather and drought leading to poor harvests in parts of the world; and export restrictions some countries have imposed in a counterproductive effort to conserve domestic food supplies.
Continued development of biofuels technology will alleviate much of the concern about competition between food and fuel. The U.S. government is committed to supporting research, development, and demonstration of new biofuels technology. It is just one of many ways in which the U.S. is working for clean and sustainable energy for the world to share.