Biofuels Digest/BIO Business Outlook Survey Shows Steady Confidence

Biofuels & Climate Change

Biofuels Digest this week reported results from a quarterly Bioenergy Business Outlook Survey, an index of the biofuels industry’s confidence. The survey showed an ongoing trend of increased responses from new and overseas companies.

The industry’s confidence remains high, with 78 percent of bioenergy executives reporting they feel more optimistic about their organization’s prospects for growth than they remember feeling 12 months earlier. A similarly high percentage, 72 percent, report feeling more optimistic about the industry’s prospects than they recall feeling a year ago. That reported high level of confidence has remained steady in the survey since the second quarter of 2011.

Industry executives also reported slightly higher expectations of revenue growth, raising the median expectation to 9 percent. At the same time, there were slightly lower expectations of new IPOs, merger and acquisitions – these expectations were significantly lower than those reported in the second quarter of 2011. But the industry continues to report expectations of rising demand for bioenergy.

How Others See the Industry

A Gallup Poll released on Monday April 9 reported that Americans continue to support a wide-range of energy solutions, with two-thirds or 66 percent supporting spending government money to develop biofuels. However, the level of support has declined since the last such poll in 2007 and become polarized along party lines. While 81 percent of Democrats support government spending for biofuels, only 51 percent of Republicans would support that effort.

A few conservatives continue to speak out in favor of biofuels. Derek Hunter last month published an editorial on BigGovernment.com, saying essentially that we’ve set out on this national project to make biofuels a cost-competitive alternative to foreign oil and we’ve achieved progress, so let’s see it through. More recently, the group Frontiers 4 Freedom launched the Fuels4Freedom project. The petition, as reported by DomesticFuel.com, asks the EPA to “strongly support the development of advanced biofuels and oppose any effort to reduce their use in our nation’s fuel supply.” The group’s press release succinctly made the argument for energy security:

“American innovation will create energy which is cheaper and more plentiful than oil. The only way we are going to get there is if the US remains committed to investing in advanced biofuel technology, exploring other viable energy sources and decreasing our reliance on foreign oil.”

At the same time, however, some Republicans rabidly oppose biofuels. Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, running to unseat Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Indiana), on a number of occasions has made the assertion that ethanol increases the price of gasoline at the pump. Numerous studies prove the exact opposite. Hoosier Ag Today called Mourdock on the claim, adding: “Senator Richard Lugar has been a steadfast supporter of Indiana’s ethanol and agricultural industries. As a farmer, Senator Lugar acutely understands its importance to working families and rural communities.”

Some of the arguments made by opponents of biofuels are lifted straight from the 1970s, when the petroleum industry opposed the switch to unleaded fuels. If you listen carefully to this recent interview with an Orlando, Florida, lady about a car she’s owned since 1964, you’ll hear her complain about the reduced gas mileage after switching from leaded to unleaded gas. It took more than 20 years for the fuel industry to phase lead completely out of gasoline, but it was worthwhile – it cut lead poisoning in the United States by half.
Just like the switch to unleaded gas, we need to switch to biofuels. We’ve started to make progress toward energy independence and need to finish the job.

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