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New fuel standard to boost biofuel development

The new renewable fuel standard (RFS) calling for production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 will help accelerate development of advanced industrial biotechnology applications necessary to economically produce these volumes of biofuels, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said in a news release.

“The RFS could add as much as $170 billion to the US economy in advanced technology development, biofuel production, and infrastructure construction,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice-president for BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section.

Erickson added, “In order to meet the new RFS we must couple advances in biotechnology with the building of a huge new energy infrastructure. This undertaking is larger than the Apollo project or the Manhattan project, but it is doable because of the accelerating advances in biotechnology. This is the most ambitious policy undertaken by any government in the world to create a viable and significant biofuels industry. It is also a rare example of bi-partisan cooperation to accomplish something significant. BIO and its member companies applaud the Senate and House of Representatives for sending a strong, bipartisan bill to the President.”

According to a February 2007 analysis by Bio Economic Research Associates, productivity of DNA sequencing and synthesis, key industrial biotechnologies, has doubled in the past 12 to 24 months. These productivity improvements have contributed to the discovery and rapid development of new microbes for consolidated biofuel processing by such companies as Mascoma, Verenium, and Sun Ethanol. They have also advanced the work of synthetic genomics companies designing novel microbes for advanced biofuel production.

A report released by the J Craig Venter Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in November 2007 identified at least 24 companies within the United States and 21 in other countries--notably Germany and Canada – engaged in commercial synthesis of gene--and genome-length DNA for applications ranging from biofuels to fine chemical and pharmaceutical production from renewable resources.

Early in 2007, McKinsey and Company analysts estimated the worldwide biofuel market to reach $61 billion by 2010. With the proposed renewable fuel standard, McKinsey has estimated the US market alone to be worth as much as $70 billion by 2022. Investment of more than $100 billion will be needed to construct new biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels.

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