Ethanol Future Looking for More Fuel

By now, well into the 21st century, at least some U.S. cars were supposed to be running on an exciting new power source—clean fuels refined from corn husks, timber waste and tall, fast-growing grasses.

Field-of-SwitchgrassBy now, well into the 21st century, at least some U.S. cars were supposed to be running on an exciting new power source—clean fuels refined from corn husks, timber waste and tall, fast-growing grasses.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledging that not a single facility is yet producing this advanced “cellulosic” ethanol, has proposed dramatically scaling back a federal program to promote the fuel for the second straight year.

Instead of requiring that the oil industry blend 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the gasoline sold at the pump next year, as Congress envisioned under the Renewable Fuels Standard program, the EPA said July 12 that it intends to cut the 2011 mandate to 5 million gallons. That’s the same level of cellulosic ethanol the EPA required this year, even though Congress had originally set a 2010 goal of 100 million gallons.

The proposal, to be finalized later this year, is just one example of how alternative transportation fuel policy stands at a crossroads, just three years after the 2007 energy bill that aimed to slash U.S. oil dependence, in part by tripling consumption of biofuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Since then, the nation’s ethanol use has essentially doubled, to about 12.8 billion gallons this year, but all of it is alcohol fuel refined from corn, a fact that has created—in the minds of many—a competition between food and fuel.

Click here to read the full article.

Source: National Geographic Daily News
Photo: Shawn Yorks | The Guymon Daily Herald | Associated Press