California dreaming of biofuelled future

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, has announced plans to attract new facilities and investment in the state's booming biofuel industry.

Speaking during a tour of a new ethanol plant set to produce 35 million gallons of the fuel each year, the former actor said his Bioenergy Action Plan could bring alternative energy into the mainstream and reduce dependency on foreign fossil fuels.

“Our state is a biomass goldmine with tremendous resources found in our agriculture, forestry and urban waste,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

“Taking full advantage of our resources will be a huge step towards energy independence and reducing pollution and greenhouse gases – while at the same time revitalizing many of our rural and agricultural areas.”

At the moment California uses almost a billion gallons of biofuel each year, 25% of the total sold in the USA, but ships in 95% of that from other states and external imports.

The plan requires California will produce a minimum of 20% of its own biofuels by 2010 and 40% by 2020.

It also calls for biomass to account for at least 20% of the state’s renewables portfolio by 2010.

The plan is also designed to improve state agency coordination on bioenergy and expand and accelerate research and development, including partnerships with the federal government and private sector.

“New markets for agriculture and forest waste mean more jobs and opportunities throughout California communities. This is another perfect example of a healthy environment and a healthy economy going hand-in-hand,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

While Gov Schwarzenegger was keen to highlight the economic and environmental benefits of biofuel, the jury is still out on just how green the fuel is.

While the actual burning of plant-based biofuel is arguably carbon neutral – the carbon given off when it is burned is only that which the plants have absorbed during their lifecycle – the carbon emissions from it production, processing and transportation all call its green credentials into question.

The Biofuel Action Plan is the latest manifestation of the governor’s crusade to show high environmental standards and profitable business are not mutually exclusive.

Pointing to the 600,000 jobs within the broadly defined environmental sector and the US$500 million it had attracted in investments last year, he said: “People always say you can’t be pro-business and pro-environment, but they are dead wrong.

“You can do both and we’re proving it everyday in California. We are attacking global warming and still creating thousands of new jobs. We are leaders in energy efficiency and leaders in attracting new investment. I’m proud to report our economy is booming once again.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie