Biofuels: Separating the wheat from the chaff

The rapid growth of the biofuels industry provides an opportunity to ensure that future production of biofuels is sustainable,has minimal impact on our environment, and delivers on climate change mitigation goals. While the production of some biofuels does not contribute to a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, there are efforts underway to move beyond first-generation biofuels and use non-food crops, municipal solid waste, or used cooking oil, that require minimal fossil fuel for production and work to conserve our land and water.

For more information, visit the biofuels wiki.

To help push the developing biofuels market towards more sustainable practices, the Packard Foundation provided a 7-year $2.5 million program-related investment loan to fund the start-up of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) Services Foundation. Through a multi-stakeholder process that included industry, NGOs, and academic institutions the RSB developed sustainability standards that define the requirements entities along the biofuel supply chain, such as farmers, feedstock processors and biofuel producers must follow to ensure that biofuels deliver on their promise of sustainability.

Under the leadership of Peter Ryus, CEO of RSB Services, the organization recently completed its first two certifications. The certification of Manildra Group of Australia offers tangible evidence that sustainable biofuels may be efficiently and economically produced at a large scale while adhering to strict social and environmental standards. Shoalhaven Starches, a subsidiary of Manildra Group, was the first to receive certification of its bioethanol, produced from wastewater generated by its wheat-processing facility.

“This is the day we have been waiting for since the launch of the RSB, and we applaud Manildra for their leadership,” said Barbara Bramble, Chair of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and Senior Advisor at the National Wildlife Federation, of the February 2012 announcement. “This achievement justifies the hard work and the commitment of the stakeholders worldwide that supported the RSB and contributed to the development and implementation of the RSB Global Sustainability Standard.” The European Commission has recognized the RSB as one of the standards that companies can use to demonstrate compliance with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive for their biofuels purchasing and production. Additionally, because of the rigor of the RSB Standards and the process used to develop them, many other governments interested in the sustainability of biofuels have looked to the RSB Standards as they have been drafting their own biofuels policies.

According to Ryus, “Several operations around the world currently in the audit process are expected to follow Manildra in paving the way towards biofuels that deliver on their sustainability promises.”

Over the past 30 years, the Packard Foundation has funded innovative projects that expand the impact of its grantmaking. Through program-related investments, like the loan that supported the creation of RSB, the Foundation is able to provide growth capital that mobilizes more resources faster than traditional grants.