The 2010 Annual Biofool of the Year Nominees

J. Craig Venter, owner, Synthetic Genomics
J. Craig VenterVenter owns the company Synthetic Genomics, a company that researches and produces organisms through synthetic biology, an extreme form of genetic engineering that hopes to build brand new organisms from scratch. Synthetic Genomics counts Exxon Mobil and BP among its investors.1

Why is he a biofool?
Synthetic Genomics is trying to create an entirely new, genetically engineered type of algae to create biofuel. Venter, Synthetic Genomics, Exxon Mobil, and BP don't seem to be concerned about what would happen if this synthetic algae, which doesn't exist in nature, got released into an ecosystem. It could die... or it could evolve, harm native plants and crops, and wreak havoc on an ecosystem.

Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Peterson represents the 7th District of Minnesota in Congress. He is the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a founding member of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

Why is he a biofool?
Representative Peterson has been quoted as saying, "I will not support any kind of climate change bill -- even if you fix this -- because I don't trust anybody anymore. I've had it."2 By "this," Peterson was referring to a scientifically supported law requiring that the EPA count all greenhouse gas emissions caused by biofuels. By "fix," Congressman Peterson meant "stop," because studies show that the deforestation associated with corn ethanol production makes it worse for the environment than fossil fuels3 and undermines the justification for corn ethanol subsidies.

Chairman Peterson threatened to block the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill's passage last summer until it was made more friendly to corporate agribusiness. As a result, he succeeded in adding to the bill a provision that would prevent the EPA from measuring and addressing the full emissions effects of biofuel production. In addition, thanks to Representative Peterson, biodiesel is now exempted from having to achieve global warming pollution reductions, and practically all forests, grasslands and other natural areas are no longer protected from expanded biofuel production.

Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
Jo Ann EmersonRepresentative Jo Ann Emerson has represented the 8th district of Missouri since 1996. She is a member of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, and the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Why is she a biofool?
Congresswoman Emerson introduced an amendment to the 2010 Interior Appropriations bill that would prevent the EPA from counting addressing the greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels. Though her amendment lost by a single vote, she remains a biofool for attempting to remove critical safeguards against pollution from biofuels.

Representative Lee Terry (R-NE)
Rep. Lee TerryLee Terry has represented the second district of Nebraska in the House of Representatives since 1999. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Why is he a biofool?
When last year's Waxman-Markey climate bill was in the Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Terry introduced an amendment that would have prevented all global warming pollution from biofuels from being counted. Fortunately, Congressman Terry's scientific integrity-defying amendment was rebuffed by his colleagues, who voted it down 20-35.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO, Renewable Fuels Association
Bob DinneenBob Dinneen is the president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, which is the ethanol industry's national trade association.  Dinneen is the ethanol industry's top lobbyist, and has become a vocal and vituperative advocate for ethanol.

Why is he a biofool?
Bob Dinneen's organization dismisses outright EPA emissions findings because of misguided perceptions about the organization's peer reviewers. As for advanced biofuels that might be cleaner, Dinneen admits the biofuel industry will produce only, "about 5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol... far less than the 100 million gallons envisioned."4 But instead of using his influence to challenge the industry to find advanced biofuels, he uses its failure to innovate to make the case for continued subsidies for corn ethanol. Dinneen's talking points downplay corn ethanol's contributions to increasing food prices and environmental degradation. Dinneen may think he can fool people, but all he really does is make painfully clear that corn ethanol is outdated.

Sources:
(1) Company Watch: Synthetic Genomics, Accessed March 15, 2010: http://www.technologyreview.com/companywatch/company/syntheticgenomics/

(2) Hearing before the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research of House Agriculture Committee, May 6, 2009: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_house_hearings&docid=f:51922.wais

(3) Tim Searchinger, et al. “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from land-Use Change.” Science, 29 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1238 - 1240: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1

(4) Dineen, Bob. Text of ethanol state of the industry 2010 address. February 24, 2010. http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/02/24/text-of-ethanol-state-of-the-industry-2010-address-by-rfa-ceo-bob-dinneen/