Issue Date: November 12, 2007
Cellulosic Ethanol Breaks New Ground
The first of six new government-supported commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries broke ground last week at a green-field site in Soperton, Ga. Owned by Range Fuels in Broomfield, Colo., the facility will produce 40 million gal of ethanol per year. Feedstock will be Georgia wood biomass, and the plant will use a trademarked thermochemical conversion technology. The Department of Energy will provide $76 million for the plant and $385 million overall for the six plants. When combined with industrial partner contributions, the investment will reach $1.2 billion for the plants, which will produce some 130 million gal of cellulosic ethanol annually. Currently all U.S. ethanol is corn-based, and the pressure is on to find a noncorn, nonfood feedstock, notes Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. While cellulosic ethanol—made from wood or grasses—is more complex to refine than corn, it contains more energy than corn, emits fewer greenhouse gases, and is not a food source. Meeting President Bush's goal of producing 35 billion gal of ethanol by 2017 would take nearly all of today's corn crop, which is currently used for animal feed (50%); export (20%); human food, seed, and industrial uses (10%); and ethanol (20%).
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