Bay leaders agreed to work together to make the Chesapeake region a national leader in developing "next generation" biofuels.
Rather than corn and other grains, these biofuels will come from cellulosic materials, such as corn stalks, fast-growing trees and perennial grasses such as switchgrass.
While technology to produce ethanol from cellulosic material is still in its infancy, it's a preferred fuel source because it can produce more ethanol per acre and requires fewer inputs, such as fertilizer, to grow.
Cellulosic "feedstocks," like switchgrass, can often be grown on marginal lands and provide environmental benefits, such as reducing erosion and absorbing nutrient runoff, while boosting income for farmers.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislatures, and the state of Pennsylvania in September released a report produced with input from a 22-member Biofuels Advisory Panel, which said the Bay region had the potential to become a leader in cellulosic biofuel production.
The report, "Next Generation Biofuels: Taking the Policy Lead for the Nation," said the region's climate and soils were well-suited for growing biofuel crops, and that it is close to both refineries and large energy markets.
At its November meeting, the Executive Council approved a directive that states begin implementing the report's 20 recommendations for state and regional actions that would support biofuel production. They include coordination of policies, constructing the infrastructure to support biofuels production, providing incentives to farmers to begin growing biofuel crops and incentives that promote biofuels use.
The directive also calls for the jurisdictions in 2009 to develop a regional goal for next-generation biofuels production along with a plan to develop markets and facilities for biofuels production, as well as establishing best management practices that would support the environmentally sustainable production of biofuels crops.
It also calls for reconvening the Biofuels Advisory Panel to offer expert advice to guide regional biofuels strategies.
"By committing today to implement biofuel action plans, we are seizing the opportunity of this unique, market-based approach to accelerate our Bay restoration efforts," said Pennsylvania Rep. Arthur Hershey, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.