Boston– The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday approved a landmark biofuels initiative that will promote clean-fuel production, create thousands of new jobs and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The legislation will make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to exempt cellulosic ethanol – a natural, next-generation fuel substitute – from the state gasoline excise tax to spur research and development and establish its future use in transportation and heating fuels.
During floor debate, as a leader in the biofuels initiative and member of the Commonwealth’s Advanced Biofuels Task Force, Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) rose to urge his colleagues to consider the biofuels legislation as a necessary step towards reducing dependence on foreign oil and positioning the Commonwealth as a national leader in the clean energy economy.
“The only thing that costs more than energy these days is doing nothing to solve the problem," said Downing. "Advanced biofuels are good for our economy, a low carbon fuel standard is good for the environment, and a regional approach is good policy. Today the Senate makes sure that Massachusetts not only benefits from clean air and water, but we benefit in jobs and sustainable energy sources."
Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said this highly-anticipated legislation will solidify the Commonwealth’s position as a leading producer of clean-energy fuel alternatives and spur new economic activity in the forestry and agricultural industries.
“With all-time high crude oil prices hovering around $140 per barrel, this initiative ensures that Massachusetts is firmly set on a transitional course from fossil fuels to clean energy products,” President Murray said. “Cellulosic ethanol represents an exciting opportunity to replace gasoline, and even corn-based ethanol, with locally-grown fuel to power vehicles on the road in Massachusetts.”
Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from plentiful homegrown agricultural sources, including wood chips and other forest waste, algae and cranberries. The initiative has the potential to add 3,000 jobs to the clean-energy industry and increase state revenues by $320 million if in-state cellulosic ethanol production meets 25 percent of the ethanol demand for fuel.
“Advanced biofuels technology is a young, burgeoning industry which may one day redefine fuel use in our nation,” said Senator Pamela Resor (D-Middlesex), a leading proponent of the bill. “Here in the Commonwealth, one of our greatest assets is our intellectual capital and capacity for research and development. With this legislation, we are aiming to encourage a biofuels sector in the Massachusetts economy that will reduce carbon emissions, maintain high environment standards, avoid negative impacts on the global food market and international land use, and make us more energy independent.”
The legislation requires that diesel and heating fuels sold in the Commonwealth contain at least two percent cellulosic ethanol by July 1, 2010 and increases annually to five percent by July 1, 2013. With this introduction of cellulosic ethanol into the market, approximately 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol will be sold by 2013.
The implementation of new industry mandates, including a requirement for biofuels to yield at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional petroleum will help build the Commonwealth’s emerging biofuel refinery and distribution sector. The changes will also result in fewer air pollutants that contribute to such conditions as asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
The legislation also establishes a low-carbon fuel standard that sets limits on greenhouse gas emissions without requiring the use of specific fuels or technology. This standard will encourage the development of a variety of alternative fuel sources and allow the market to choose sources at the lowest cost.
“Massachusetts has the obligation and the ability to lead the nation in revolutionizing the way we fuel our motor vehicles,” said Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Moving toward biofuels is important for our economy, our environment and our future.”
This bill will now go to the House of Representatives for further action.