One year ago this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Index of 30 so-called, "bellwether" stocks, soared to its all–time high of more than 14,000 points.
On Thursday's anniversary of the historic event, the Dow plunged 678 points. More than $870 billion of investments vaporized, and the index stood at just 60 percent of its value one year earlier. But as bad as Thursday was, Friday started off even worse.
The Dow plummeted nearly 700 points in the opening minutes of trading, then rallied back to post a gain of more than 100 points almost as quickly, in a volatile trading session that included multiple upward and downward spikes to wrap up the Dow's worst week in history.
All told, the Dow lost more than 18 percent over the past week which represents a greater loss than in 1933, -- during the Great Depression – when there were six trading days in a week.
And in what might be seen as the lone bright spot in a tumultuous week of trading, crude oil prices settled below $78 per barrel Friday. That's more than 50 percent below their all-time high of $147 per barrel posted in July.
But, the reprieve in oil prices this week didn't sway senior Bush Administration officials from outlining how they plan to reach the president's goal of reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years.
Secretary Ed Schafer, USDA: "We all know that there are still logistical and infrastructure challenges to be overcome. And scientific and technological barriers are there that must be broken down. This plan is not the final word on how to build our biofuels industry, but it gives us a very useful roadmap."
The National Biofuels Action Plan includes establishing working groups to, among other things:
-define the sustainability of biofuels production
-study feedstock availability
-find new conversion technologies and production methods
-examine the transport of ethanol by pipeline
-and review the effects of blending ethanol with gasoline in amounts above 10 percent per gallon.
Secretary Sam Bodman, Department of Energy: "All of these investments are designed to make sustainable, mass-produced, commercially available, advanced biofuels a reality for the American consumer."
The federal Renewable Fuels Standard, or R-F-S, mandates the production of 36 billion gallons of fuel annually by 2022 but caps corn-based ethanol at 15 billion gallons. The National Biofuels Action Plan unveiled this week will help find ways to produce the other 21 billion gallons.
If all goes according to plan, the research and development phase will last until 2012. Between 2012 and 2014, new feedstocks, conversion technologies, blending schemes, and distribution methods would be implemented. And between 2014 and 2022, a combination of investment in new discoveries -- and ongoing research and development -- would be combined to achieve the 36 billion gallon R-F-S.
Pushing various elements of the plan along are funds from both the 2008 Farm Bill and the 2007 Energy Bill totaling more than $2 billion. These include loan guarantees of up to $250 million for companies that build cellulosic ethanol refineries and $35 million for creating biofuels from non-food feedstocks.
The first in a series of reports is expected sometime in November.