Chesapeake Quarterly
Building Capacity for Biofuels in the Bay
Next Generation of Biofuels Biofuels And The Bay

THE CHESAPEAKE REGION is aiming to position itself as a leader in the biofuel arena. At its annual meeting in November 2008, the Bay Program's Executive Council passed a directive on biofuel development in the watershed, requiring that states coordinate biofuel policies, construct infrastructure to support biofuels production, provide incentives to farmers to begin growing biofuel crops, and promote biofuel use. The Executive Council represents all of the top leadership in the Bay states - the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a legislative body serving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The directive issued by the Executive Council emerges from recommendations in two biofuel reports produced by the Chesapeake Bay Commission in 2007 and 2008. The reports assert that the Chesapeake region is poised to become a leader in the biofuel arena but that biofuel production must be coupled with sound nutrient management practices. Since the watershed is not yet vested in corn-based ethanol, an alternative fuel considered damaging to the environment, the reports cite a unique opportunity to grow biofuel production alongside nutrient management efforts and to cultivate the development of "next-generation" biofuel feedstocks. These include perennial grasses and woody crops that help absorb nitrogen and reduce sediment loads in local waterways.

"There has been extraordinary response to both reports," says Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The key, she says, is to make sure that the region moves forward with nutrient management in mind.

"If we seize the energy opportunities without linking them with environmental safeguards, we are heading for trouble," she says. "However, if we couple the two, we are heading for an opportunity that we haven't been tossed in hundreds of years."

Erica Goldman

March 2009
vol. 8, no. 1
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