FAQs: Biofuels

What is a "biobased product"?

While there is no formal definition of biobased chemicals, the term "biobased product" is defined in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 as a "commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials) or forestry materials" (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ171/pdf/PLAW-107publ171.pdf). 

What is biotechnology?

Biotechnology is generally described as the use of living organisms, or substances produced or derived from such organisms, to make or modify a product.  See Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, Commercial Biotechnology:  An International Analysis 3, 503 (1984).  "Industrial biotechnology" is often used to describe biotechnology used for the production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. 

What are the primary renewable feedstocks used for biobased production?

Biofuels and biobased products may be made from a variety of feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, and sugar to algae, purpose grown energy crops, and municipal solid wastes, among other sources. 

What is the Farm Bill?

Typically, every five years Congress passes a comprehensive legislation package commonly known as the "Farm Bill."  It sets the U.S. national policy for agriculture and food.  The most recent Farm Bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246 (the 2008 Farm Bill) expired on September 30, 2012.  Certain provisions of the Act were extended through September 30, 2013, with the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  Importantly, the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill was not extended.  Farm Bill advocates are working hard this year to pass a new five-year Farm Bill that includes a strong energy title that would, among other things, support the continued development and production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. 

What is the BioPreferred® Program?

Created by the 2002 Farm Bill, the Farm, Security and Rural Energy Act of 2002, the BioPreferred®Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), serves to increase the purchase of biobased products by the federal government by awarding federal procurement preference status to qualifying products.  The program was expanded significantly in the 2008 Farm Bill. 

Was the BioPreferred® Program terminated?

No.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 did not include funding for the program under provisions extending parts of the 2008 Farm Bill.  As a result, USDA has suspended the processing of applications for voluntary certification of biobased products.  USDA expects to continue limited activities related to the federal procurement preference program as staff resources allow.  All existing biobased product label certifications will remain valid.  For information on the current status of the BioPreferred®Program, and answers to frequently asked questions on it, please visit http://www.biopreferred.gov/

What is the National Bioeconomy Blueprint?

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint is the Obama Administration's plan that "outlines the steps that agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy -- economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences -- and details ongoing efforts across the Federal government to realize this goal."  The Blueprint specifically outlines strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs.  The Blueprint is available online.  

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