We normally discuss biofuels in the context of easing our nation's dependence on foreign energy sources. However, as global demand for biofuels rises, that context may soon shift towards supplying international demand. In a recent study, the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) reported that uncertainties in classifications may be a primary factor in limiting the international trade of biofuels. Robert Howse, lead author of the paper and a University of Michigan law professor, said that defining specific classifications will allow for the establishment of a widely accepted tariff structure as well as definitive subsidy notification requirement, both of which would ease international trading.

Additionally, the report states that the issue of sustainability may also become a factor that impedes the international biofuels market. Some European countries seem to be in the early stages of requiring that imported biofuels come from sustainable sources.

Howse believes that there are two primary reasons why people shy away from discussing the biofuels market openly. The first is that it's a relatively new market. The second is because energy issues are usually tied to national security. He says, "Once you get past that threshold, you can have trade negotiations that are explicitly targeted at biofuels." The paper suggests that governments and international organizations such as the World Trade Organization start working together to develop acceptable standards.

[Source: Biodiesel Magazine]


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