A View from Kevin Bullis
Less Money for Evaluating Biofuels
Producing ethanol might increase greenhouse emissions, but the funding to find out is being cut.
The EPA is slated to get less money than in previous years to analyze the effects of biofuels use. The proposed cut comes at a time when that money may be needed more than ever.
Energy Washington Week reports that President Bush’s proposed 2009 budget for an EPA program related to analyzing biofuels would cut funds by almost 10 percent compared with this year. If anything, the funding should be going up. Congress recently passed, and President Bush signed into law, legislation that would dramatically increase the amount of biofuels used in the United States. At the same time, researchers have published work in the journal Science suggesting that producing biofuels could increase rather than decrease greenhouse-gas emissions. Biofuels, in other words, could make worse the very problem that they are supposed to help solve.
The results are not definitive, and much depends on how the biofuels are produced. (See this Science article.) But before biofuels production ramps up too much, it would be good to know whether they are making things better or worse.