On August 12, 1999, President Clinton announced new steps to spur bio-based technologies that can help grow the U.S. economy, enhance U.S. energy security, and meet environmental challenges, including global warming. The President issued Executive Order 13134 coordinating Federal efforts to accelerate these 21st century technologies -- which can convert sustainably grown crops, trees, and other "biomass" into fuels, power, and products. He also set a goal of tripling U.S. use of bioenergy and bio-products by 2010. Meeting this goal could create $15 to $20 billion in new income for farmers and rural America, and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to as much as 100 million metric tons of carbon (MMTCE) -- the equivalent of taking more than 70 million cars off the road.
Biomass: Clean Renewable Energy for the 21st Century
The term biomass refers to trees, crops, and agricultural, forestry, and other organic waste materials that can be used to make fuels, chemicals, and electricity. Biomass is a clean and renewable source of energy. It can be used to fuel cars, power factories, and create a host of chemicals and other everyday products. Energy from bio-mass sources -- mostly from wood and wood waste -- currently accounts for about 3 percent of the total U.S. energy supply. Since biomass crops absorb carbon during growth, their use for energy and other applications results in near-zero net carbon release. Thus, substituting sustainably grown bio-mass for fossil fuels can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, while also reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NO x ), sulfur oxides (SO x ), and other pollutants. In addition, the deep-rooted plants commonly used for biomass, such as poplar, willow, and switchgrass, are helpful in control-ling erosion, filtering chemicals from water runoff, and slowing floodwaters.
What the Executive Order Does
Scientific advances in agriculture, forestry, and other biological sciences are making bioenergy and bio-products technically feasible and economically viable. Recent reports and studies concluded that U.S. government support for research is essential to realizing the full economic and environmental potential of bio-based industries. The new Executive Order:
Establishes a permanent council consisting of the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and other agency heads to develop a detailed research program to be presented as part of the annual Federal budget.
Instructs the council to review major agency regulations, incentives, and programs to ensure that they are effective in promoting the use of bio-products and bioenergy. The council's plan will be reviewed by an outside advisory group with representatives from bio-based industries, agriculture and forestry sectors, universities, and environmental groups.
Directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a National Bio-based Products and Bioenergy Coordination Office to manage the preparation of interagency budgets and pro-vide a convenient point of entry for anyone interested in Federal work in bio-based products and bioenergy.
The Executive Order also builds on the Administration's record of strong and consistent support for bio-based industries, as indicated by: (1) the electricity restructuring bill introduced by the Administration earlier in 1999 requiring that 7.5 percent of all U.S. electricity come from renewable resources by 2010; (2) Executive Order 13101, signed in September 1998, instructing Federal agencies to make use of bio-based products; (3) new proposed tax credits for bio-based electricity production; and (4) increased research funding for DOE, USDA, and the National Science Foundation.
Bioenergy and Bioproducts Are Here Today
Clean bioenergy and bioproducts are very much here and now. Already DOE and USDA are participating in partnerships on a number of breakthrough bioenergy and bioproducts projects, including:
Biomass-to-Ethanol Demonstration Projects. During the autumn of 1998, BC International Corporation broke ground in Jennings, Louisiana, for the first commercial plant to produce ethanol from the cellulose in agricultural waste -- in this case, sugar cane bagasse. A number of other demonstration projects to convert municipal solid waste to ethanol are under development.
Biorefinery for Chemicals. Cargill Corporation, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States, built a prototype biorefinery in Blair, Nebraska. This new facility will use corn to produce a stream of chemical products and also a biodegradable polymer, polylactic acid, used in manufacturing films, fibers, rigid materials, and coatings.
Co-Firing Technologies. A number of projects are underway to explore ways to use biomass such as switchgrass and short-rotation wood crops like willows to make electricity by co-firing them with coal. Two of the most prominent studies -- the Iowa Chariton Valley initiative and the New York Salix project -- also will investigate the technical and economic aspects of biomass gasification, in which biomass is made into a fuel gas that can be used for heat or power production.
Biomass to Energy. In the United States, more than 270 landfill gas-to-energy projects use the gas from decomposing waste as an energy source.
Economic Potential of Using Biomass for Energy and Products
Using biomass for energy and products is not only good for the environment, it also promises real economic opportunities for farmers, the forest products industry, energy producers, and chemical manufacturers. In rural areas, a fast-growing bioenergy market will increase the demand for energy crops, agricultural and forest residues, and wastes of all types. By creating high-tech jobs and new economic opportunities, meeting the President's goal of tripling U.S. use of bioenergy and bio-products could add $15 to $20 billion in new income for farmers and many rural communities, ensuring that they are an integral part of a prosperous 21st century global economy. The President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology noted in a recent report, "Powerful Partnerships: The Federal Role in International Cooperation on Energy Innovation," that investments in bioenergy technologies, infrastructures, and markets can play a crucial role in helping the world meet its future energy needs in an environmentally sustainable way.
The Administration's Fiscal Year 2000 Budget on Biomass
The President's Fiscal Year 2000 budget request contains $242 million for investments in biomass research, development, and deployment, including:
Advanced Biomass Power and Fuels -- funding for DOE and USDA to continue developing, testing, and demonstrating high-yield, low-cost biomass feedstocks; processes for co-firing biomass with coal to produce electricity; advanced technologies for biomass gasification using paper industry by-products; and continued work on producing alternative fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, from biomass.
National Biomass Partnership -- funding for DOE, USDA, and other Federal agencies and their private partners to launch a national partnership to develop advanced integrated biomass technologies.
The President also proposed a package of biomass tax credits, which would add an extension of five years to the current tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced from biomass. In addition, the proposal expands the types of biomass eligible for the credit to include certain forest-related, agricultural, and other resources. Finally, the package includes a 1.0 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit for electricity produced by co-firing biomass in coal plants.
Click here for additional information on the President's Executive Order on Bio-Based Products and Bioenergy.
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