Cellulosic ethanol is moving closer to reality, E15 will help make it a reality

(By Dale Hildebrant, Farm & Ranch Guide)

Cellulosic ethanol has been in the “talking stage” for several years, but the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant is set to go on line and as the cellulosic ethanol industry becomes more widespread, the country’s acceptance of ethanol will grow, according to an industry spokesman.

Doug Berven, director of corporate affairs for POET LLC, the leading ethanol producer in the United States, recently addressed a group of farmers in James-town on the future of the ethanol industry in the U.S.

“We know how important ethanol is to agriculture and America,” Berven said. “But people on the East and West coasts and in the South are not thinking agriculture and ethanol- they don’t understand it. They are the people we have to convince that it’s very important. Once they see a ‘50-state solution,’ that they can make ethanol in their state, they will feel the direct impact of it and will then realize the importance of ethanol for the country.”

The key to getting the entire nation involved in ethanol is cellulosic ethanol and POET is ready to start producing ethanol on a commercial scale from corn cobs at their plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Known as Project LIBERTY, this is a $200 million collaboration with the Department of Energy, the state of Iowa, all of the major equipment manufacturers and farmers in the area.

However, for cellulosic ethanol to be successful, it needs to have access to the market, a market that is already almost filled to capacity with corn-based ethanol production. The solution is to raise the mandated level of ethanol to 15 percent instead of the current 10 percent, Berven said, adding he expects to see the E-15 regulation in place by the middle of this year…

(See Full article)

Our Take:
 It’s not just on the drawing board anymore, or even just a product from a couple of beakers on a laboratory bench. We are talking about millions of gallons of ethanol per year coming from corncobs processed in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Within the decade we will surely see cellulose ethanol production in the billions of gallons annually.

At this crucial moment, both the E15 waiver (to allow conventional gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol) and the continuation of the 45 cent Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (and the 54 cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol) all add up to the same thing—these measures currently before Congress will create the space in the market that can be occupied by cellulosic ethanol. Cellulose ethanol offers the potential to increase the bottom line for our farm producers, and to spread the ethanol revolution beyond the Midwest and make it a national energy solution.

We hope that the advent of commercially viable cellulose will bring about a national change in thinking, and a broader acceptance of all non-petroleum transportation energy sources.

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