Response to the WSJ

I’d like to share the unedited version of a letter to the editor sent to the WSJ in response to its cellulosic ethanol bashing by the head of BP Biofuels, Sue Ellerbusch.
By Susanne Retka Schill | December 19, 2011

You’d think that business journalists, of all people, would understand the lengthy timeline for developing new technology. But the Wall Street Journal apparently is disconnected from the realities of research and development and commercialization of a technologically difficult process. In a Dec. 14 article, “The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle,”  the WSJ calls the national efforts to support the development of cellulosic ethanol a folly. It points outs the volume goals in the RFS have been drastically reduced and ridicules the waiver credit system, where obligated parties must buy a credit since the fuel required to meet the RFS isn’t available for purchase. They trot out a few predictable arguments, plus some I haven’t heard before.

It was gratifying to get an email from quarters that the ethanol industry often bashes—Big Oil. While objecting to some of the policies favored by Big Oil, we sometimes forget that the majors have big investments and major commitments to developing renewable fuels.

I’d like to share the unedited version of a letter to the editor sent to the WSJ in response to its cellulosic ethanol bashing by the head of BP Biofuels, Sue Ellerbusch. She was featured in the December issue of EPM as one of six industry leaders in our outlook article.  Rohan Hutchings, biofuels communications advisor for BP Biofuels North America sent it our way.  It is a succinct, positive response to WSJ’s skeptisim:

BP Biofuels Response to WSJ article

Dear Sirs,

Very few game-changing technologies have been born overnight. Cellulosic biofuels are no different.  (“The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle,” December 13.) 

The biofuels industry is not yet mature enough to improve its technology and grow at scale without support. But it is an industry that will create significant jobs for rural communities and help deliver energy security to the US. 

True, some earlier entrants have dropped out. But those that remain are making great strides in commercializing cellulosic biofuels. Any premature termination of policy support, particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), will squander the gains already made.

Those gains include a proprietary technology for cellulosic biofuel production developed by BP’s Global Biofuels Technology Center in San Diego. We know our technology makes cellulosic biofuels because we are doing it today at our demonstration facility in Jennings, Louisiana.  We also know we can access land and grow energy crops because we are doing that today in Highlands County, Florida. Our first commercial-scale facility is being designed, and will generate 600–800 construction jobs and 200 operating jobs.

Bringing all these pieces together does take time, but we are on the cusp of commercialization. In the meantime, assistance like the RFS will help create a market to drive these economic benefits. 

A diverse energy portfolio is essential for creating jobs, growing the economy and providing for the nation’s energy security. And part of that portfolio includes fuels that help lower greenhouse gases.  We have no doubt that ongoing patience and support will ultimately pay economic and energy dividends for America.

Sue Ellerbusch

President, BP Biofuels North America