Dear BEST members,

In 2009, the European Union set forth directives that mandate a 20% overall share of renewable energy and a 10% share of biofuels for the transportation sector by 2020.  More recently in 2012, the EU proposed that no more than half of these biofuels can come from food-based crops.  Rising food prices and cleaner technologies should be enough to motivate change and stimulate investors, but unfortunately legislation is a necessary step.

Italy is taking a bold step forward as the first country in the EU requiring that a portion of their renewable fuel production come from inedible crops.  The new law requires that gasoline and diesel contain a certain percentage of biofuel from crop waste or non-food crops such as switchgrass.  The required percentage will incrementally increase over time, starting at 1.2% in 2018 and increasing to a minimum of 2% by 2022.  It may seem small, but it is bold step for a country still trying to gain their footing from the past economic landslide.  To read the Bloomberg news article by Louise Downing on October 30, 2014, visit

My PhD research was conducted at a farm-scale biogas plant in Northern Italy from 2010 through 2013, where they converted rice straw into electricity via anaerobic digestion.  Rice fields are a major contributor to greenhouse gases and through anaerobic digestion of the crop residues, they not only eliminated these emissions but they made energy from waste and benefited economically from generous feed-in tariffs.  Italians pride themselves on innovation and continue to impress me with their commitment toward a cleaner future.

Wendy Mussoline, PhD, PE
Post-Doc, BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Lab
Soil and Water Science Department