The Impossible Dream? 50% Cellulosic Ethanol

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Is the U.S. Falling behind on Meeting its 2022 Goal of 50% Mandated Cellulose Ethanol (biofuels)?

The government has ordered (mandated) that 36 billion gallons of biofuel be blended into the fuel supply by 2022. Of that, 16 billion must be cellulosic ethanol. No more than 15 billion can be corn ethanol, with the rest coming from other biofuel sources, such as the residue left from sugar production, wood, grass, corn stalks, garbage and waste streams into 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels annually by 2022. Don’t forget kudzu.

“The United States could not move that much ethanol today if it had to,” said biofuel consultant Bill Caesar, a principal with McKinsey & Co. “There are a lot of other pieces of the puzzle which need to fall in place over time before we hit these very big numbers.”

No commercial-scale refineries exist, researchers have yet to agree on the best technology for fuel conversion and there is no distribution network to handle fuel once it is made. This is the current cellulosic biofuel status even though there are many research and pilot plants being constructed this year. If oil prices hover around $140.00 per barrel, then there will be a chance that investors will get a good payout on their investment. But with the current price of oil being less than $80.00 per barrel, the reality of investing in a cellulosic biofuel operation is risky. With the current state of the economy, will investors want to focus on green cellulosic fuels or other financial investments that promise greater returns?

At least a minimum 200 ethanol production plants capable of producing 100 million gallons per year will be needed to meet the EPA’S standards. Folks that an estimated 200 plants for meeting the 50% cellulosic standard.

There are pros and cons for cellulosic biofuels, but how long will it take to get the necessary production facilities up and running to make the required gallons of ethanol required to meet the EPA Goal in 2022? What happens if oil prices stay relative low compared to $140.00 a barrel and corn price start dropping because of our slowing economic conditions? Americans are creatures of old habits and will cheaper gasoline prices and our economic slow down mean less interest in “green solutions” and ending our oil addiction?

Cellulosic ethanol has to be a main area of focus of the U.S. if we are ever going to use less oil and gasoline because of all the benefits offered by cellulosic fuels. What will it be America? Stop the outflow of American dollars to the oil rich nations or keep drinking kool-aid and supporting our oil addiction?

Time will tell. Read the complete Story here: (Source MSNBC)

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2 Responses to The Impossible Dream? 50% Cellulosic Ethanol

  1. Biofuelsimon October 29, 2008 at 4:50 am #

    I get the feeling that a lot of the US Biofuel targets are aspirational (man on the moon by the end of the decade). There are a range of problems that would have to be overcome if it were ever to happen. A major rail tankcar building programme, is one thing that doesn’t get spoken about much… That’s not to say it can’t be done in smarter ways than are being used now. Perhaps there is more real benefit in using waste food, waste timber and waste agricultural products to make biofuels than food crops. Technologies around Fischer-Tropsh could be valuable sources of liquid fuels. But the capital costs are high and require a real commitment, compared to building a low capital fermentation plant. Which technologies do you think will win out in the medium term?

  2. Izzy November 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    Why doesn’t anyne ever mention hemp as a source for biofuels? I know it’s currently illegal but the “weed” that comes from hemp is so totally unsmokable anyway that it’s really a non-issue.

    Hemp needs almost no tending, can grow in just about any climate in the continental US and can yield the production of cellulosic biofuels, fiber for textiles and oil for any number of uses, including fueling combustion engines.

    To take hemp off the table because of laws that are so totally outdated is just absurd. I certainly hope more people start asking and talking about it. It could really help our economy and undo the damage that corn biofuel has inflicted via exorbitant food price increases.

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