WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) reintroduced legislation this week to fix what they see as a glitch that limits the biomass fuel potential of U.S. forests.

The Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act this week would allow the development and use of cellulosic ethanol derived from woody biomass on federal lands and from private forests as well. The bill would significantly broaden the definition of cellulosic ethanol within the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to include biomass gathered from federal lands.

The legislators noted that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 included an historic 36 billion gallon renewable fuels standard (RFS), of which 21 billion gallons are required to be derived from "advanced biofuels" by 2022. However, the legislation's definition of renewable biomass prevents almost all federal land biomass, such as trees, wood, brush, thinnings, chips, and slash, from counting toward the mandate if it is used to manufacture biofuels.

They said that not only discourages the use of such biomass, but could discourage responsible forest management by denying land managers an important outlet for the excessive fuel loads that often accumulate on public lands.

The Walden-Herseth Sandlin bill would promote the use of energy from waste products gathered on federal lands, including those that are byproducts of preventive treatments and are removed to reduce hazardous fuels, to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation, or to restore ecosystem health.

"Our bipartisan legislation would give the country a better chance of reaching its goal of producing 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels a year by 2022-enough to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 20 coal-fired electricity plants," Walden said. "There's technology out there to turn woody biomass from forest health treatments in our choked forests into clean fuel, a process that would create good paying jobs and a healthier environment at the same time. A major roadblock standing in the way of that progress is this flawed federal energy policy we're trying to correct."

The Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act currently has bipartisan support. Among the original cosponsors were Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

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