Issue Date: October 12, 2009
Biofuels Expansion Facing Challenges
A study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO-09-449) details a number of significant roadblocks to the increased production and use of biofuels. Under the 2007 renewable fuel law, the U.S. is required to increase the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels it uses to 36 billion gal by 2022. Many experts, however, have serious questions about what these high production levels will do to prices of livestock and food, and they have concerns about effects on water quality. EPA is not required to consider these environmental impacts under the 2007 law, GAO says. There is also concern that the U.S. is hitting the “blend wall” in ethanol use in gasoline; that is, the maximum amount of ethanol that most U.S. vehicles can use. This is because higher concentrations of ethanol are too corrosive for most current vehicles and also for the petroleum distribution system. GAO recommends that EPA be required to assess life-cycle environmental impacts of increased biofuels production and support research on biorefinery technologies that might lead to more competitive fuels.
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