Feenstra amendment bolsters use of woody biomass for bioenergy

By Erin Voegele | November 17, 2021

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Nov. 16 approved an amendment to the National Wildlife Fire Risk Reduction Program Act offered by Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, that aims to bolster bioenergy and biofuels production.

“My amendment would create an opportunity to utilize biomass collected from wildfire and mitigation and post-fire recovery activities to create bioenergy, including biofuels,” Feenstra said during the legislative markup session. “Since coming to Congress, I have had a focus on alternative fuels and alternative forms of energy. The recent shocking surge of fuel prices highlights the importance of research and development on cost-effective biofuels…Clearing excess undergrowth and downed forest materials from our wildlands is an important step in wildfire mitigation and prevention. Though harmless in normal conditions, these organic materials can create a tinderbox to spread or sustain a wildfire. However, this process of clearing can be expensive for our communities.”

Feenstra explained that his amendment expands U.S. Department of Energy research and development activities authorized by the bill to include activities focused on using biomass from fire mitigation and recovery efforts to create bioenergy.

“Feedstocks, such as corn and soybeans, currently fuel Iowa’s thriving bioenergy industry,” Feenstra said. “However, cellulosic wood-based biomass, such as agriculture waste and forest undergrowth, is much more difficult to utilize due to its difficulties of breaking it down efficiently. Development of easier, cost-effective processes for converting these materials of biofuels can benefit fire-prone communities as well as farmers in the Midwest.”

“This amendment improves this bill by harnessing the DOE’s expertise to address important challenges,” Feenstra added. “Researching new ways to create bioenergy from excess vegetation and has potential to not only provide a new fuel source, but to create an additional economic value for smart wildfire mitigation.”

The National Wildfire First Reduction Program Act, H.R. 5781, was introduced on Oct. 28 and referred to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology; the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. The Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a meeting to markup the bill on Nov. 16.

Additional information on the bill is available on the Congress.gov website