Science Progress | Where science, technology, and progressive policy meet

The Coolest Platform Raises the Hardest Questions

So who is speaking here, an ethicist, a scientist, or a policymaker? It’s very hard for me to have a conversation about these issues, because people adopt incredibly defensive postures…The scientists on one side and civil-society organizations on the other. [...]


Where Did Biofuels Go?

Home-grown fuels have dropped out of mainstream discussion, but recent research continues to improve our understanding of the emissions calculus of trading biofuels for gasoline—along with the health and environmental impacts. And in the last few months, scientists have refined principles that can guide sustainable public policies.

Biofuel Policy Recommendations in Science, Just Before Administration Unveils New Plan

SwitchgrassWriting at the Switchboard blog, Nathanael Green is pleased with the conclusions of 23 scientists who co-authored the Policy Forum in Friday’s issue of Science, “Sustainable Biofuels Redux.” And just today, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that tomorrow they will release a new plan for accelerating the development of the sustainable biofuels industry.

Igniting Cellulosic Biofuel Production

SwitchgrassTo produce biofuels that reduce carbon emissions and do not compete with food crops, biofuel producers need to scale up production of cellulosic biofuels, particularly those made from waste materials and crops that do not compete with food.

Revisiting the RFS, Part 1: It’s Good, Now Here’s How to Improve It

Tuesday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing pitted environmentalists, corn producers, oil refiners, grocery manufacturers, and renewable fuel advocates against one another in a contentious debate over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Science Progress tries to make sense of it all. First up, what’s right with the RFS and ways to make it better.

Ag Policy Crucial for Next-Generation Biofuels

Conference committee appointees are hashing through Senate and House versions of the 2007 Farm Bill, and there’s a significant risk that the legislation they pass on to the President will continue the misguided agricultural subsidies that thwart the development of advanced cellulosic biofuels.

More Fuel for Debate: Biofuel Production Lowers the Cost of Oil

Worldwide biofuel production is increasing so rapidly, according to a new analysis from Merrill Lynch, while other fuel sources cannot keep up with demand, that without the rising production, oil prices would be higher than they already are. The Wall Street Journal reported on the analysis yesterday, which adds yet another variable to the already complex debate over biofuel policy.

The Coupled Economics of Food and Biofuels

In his most recent column, Chris Mooney traced the complexities of the the current debate over biofuels. One major concern is that increased demand for biofuels leads farmers to plant more feedstocks for ethanol and devote less land to growing food. The New York Times tackled the issue of food crops yesterday, offering a substantial cover story on the growing gap between global grain production and soaring grain demand.


Biofuel Warfare

The latest scientific research suggests that current biofuel production might not reduce carbon emissions significantly, or at all. It’s clear now that the issue is “wickedly complicated.” Are we wise enough to handle it?

Better Biofuels: The Short Story and the Long Story

Before we need more biofuels, writes Alex Farrell in an op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, we need better biofuels. He suggests reorienting our thinking about biofuel production to focus on how we use the land available, so that fuel does not compete with wilderness or food production.


The Path to Better Biofuels

The latest research on biofuel production suggests that previous studies failed to fully account for the role uncultivated lands play in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. But with this new guidance, says Alex Farrell in an interview with Science Progress, we see that while not all biofuels are created equal, growing them the right way can help stop global warming, keep food prices down, and preserve our forests.

National Academies Explore Interdisciplinary Research

NAS logoThe National Research Council of the National Academies convened a symposium Wednesday to explore approaches among “Future Directions in Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences.” The intersections up for discussion ranged across the research spectrum: from synthetic biology to geoengineering to bioterrorism.

Flex-Fuel Friendly States

USA mapAn interactive map showing where in the U.S. you can find Flex Fuel cars and gas stations that offer E85. The energy bill currently in Congress provides important provisions to make flex-fuels more widely available.

Decode Me

DNA strandDeCode Genetics, an Icelandic company, announced personal genome sequencing, available immediately for $985. But there’s quite a bit of fine print to consider as other companies join this infant industry.

Bio-fuels and Human Rights

Brazilian sugarcane harvesterBrazilian ethanol produced from sugar cane is a promising renewable energy technology. But land is finite and using it for energy means not using it for other human needs. Nowhere is this clearer than in the history of the Brazilian sugar cane industry.