Environment, Policy and Economics

Public policy refers to the evolving, dynamic sets of laws, regulations and incentives that guide the behavior of people, companies, and government agencies.  Public policies can be created by Federal, State, and local (City, Town and County) governments.  Public policies set goals, set limits, and provide incentives that shape the evolving bioenergy and bioproducts industry in many ways that impact which alternative energy and products are available to us, and the cost of these alternatives.  Public policies normally reflect the human values of an area and are usually created to address concerns for safety and the general well being of citizens (our environment, our property, our health, etc.).  The policies impacting bioenergy and bioproducts development today are centered on improving national energy security, rural economic development and protection of the environment.  Bioenergy and bioproducts industries involve a variety of industry segments and require a wide variety of expertise.  For example, The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), US Department of Energy (DOE), US Department of Transportation (DOT), The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all have specific interests and concerns in bioenergy and bioproducts industries. One of the largest consumers of transportation fuels, the US Department of Defense also has an interest in bioenergy development.  These agencies work together to advance alternatives such as bioenergy and bioproducts in ways that address concerns raised from many perspectives.  There are similar agencies in each State that legislate solutions that best fit a given state.  Similarly, local governments may address concerns of citizens such as controlling the types of industrial or agricultural activities that can occur within the local jurisdiction.  From Federal to local scales, all of these entities are playing a similar balancing act to create public policy solutions that address environmental, economic and social concerns.   In addition to reviewing the current major policies influencing the bioeconomy today, each workshop Site also includes a policy "Role Play" activity that allows participants to understand different impacts, views, perspectives and social issues related to the emerging biomass-based energy and products industry.  Many teachers report post-wrokshop collaboration with Social Studies and history teachers after this fun exercise.