Bryan Endres studies the ecological implications of biofuel feedstocks, including the potential of new biomass feedstocks to be invasive.
Not as an ecologist, but as a lawyer.
Today Endres studies the legal issues related to the approval of new bioenergy crops and works with a team of ecologists and crop scientists to study the regulation of bioenergy crops.
He has found that federal and state regulations for invasive plants are discordant instead of complementary and neither sufficiently regulates potentially harmful species.
“We found the vast majority of plants that are considered invasive by the ecological and crop science community are actually not regulated at the state or federal level,” he said. “There are serious problems in the existing regulatory regime that could allow someone to start planting an invasive plant for bioenergy purposes.”
Endres and his research team support the need for alternative fuels while protecting the country from “unintended consequences.” He says just because it is legal to plant something, doesn’t make it right.
“Think about the fact that kudzu was intentionally introduced into the country as this great feedstock,” he said. “It’s literally eaten the south and is spreading.”
Endres’ team has also found regulated plants that are not considered harmful.
“That’s an indication of a lack of science-based decision making that is just as harmful,” he said. “We are trying to calibrate the law so we have the right regulation that matches up with the right feedstock.”
While it may take a long time for Endres’ efforts to be integrated into national and state regulations, the EPA has acknowledged that they need to consider a plant’s potential to become invasive and how that plant will be cultivated and managed when they approve feedstocks for the renewable fuel standards.
“That’s why it is so important to fund this research on a long-term basis,” he said. “It’s a long process to see our work enacted.”
For years, Endres has studied biotechnology regimes in the United States’ Plant Protection Act that also regulates invasive species; so it was a natural jump for Endres to become involved in the Energy Biosciences Institute’s (EBI) efforts to increase biomass production while preventing the introduction of invasive species into natural Monthly Feature cont. Bryan Endres: The Regulation of Biofuels ecosystems.
After high school, Endres received a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from The United States Military Academy at West Point. While serving in the army, he earned a master’s degree in administrative management from Bowie State University in Heidelberg, Germany. After five years of service, he attended law school at the University of Illinois and graduated summa cum laude in 2000.
“In law school, I was very interested in agro-environmental issues,” he said. “I started looking at the intersection of the law, the environment, and the farm and how it all fit into the larger system.”
After practicing law in Washington, DC and Phoenix, AZ, Endres joined the University of Illinois faculty in 2003. Now, ten years later, he is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.
Endres is a member of the IGB’s Business, Economics, and Law of Genomic Biology research theme and a co-principal investigator of the EBI’s Environmental, Social & Economic Impacts research area. He often collaborates on research projects with his wife, Jody Endres, who is also a member of the EBI and an expert in sustainability standards.
Currently, Endres serves as the Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs and Interim Director of International Programs and Studies, an office that supports international partnerships, area study centers, international students, and study abroad programs for the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Despite all these responsibilities, Endres’ interdisciplinary research continues. “The best part of my week is when I get to have my lab meetings with my research team,” he said.
The Energy Biosciences Institute is a public-private collaboration in which bioscience and biological techniques are being applied to help solve the global energy challenge. The partnership, funded with $500 million for 10 years from the energy company BP, includes researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and BP.
This article originally appeared in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology newsletter.