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May 11, 2007

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Ethanol Blog

Actually corn should just be a first step in the development of ethanol.
Cellulose ethanol is the holy grail.
But it requires some more R&D: it will probably be available in the next five years.

Lori V.

I was just reading a little about cellulosic ethanol in E magazine. It sounds fantastic. The only problem is that I think politicians are hanging on to the corn thing & sinking money into development there. Are there any that are actually talking more about cellulose instead of corn?

Ethanol Blog

You've got a point here: the corn lobby is quite powerful. Besides politicians - democrats or Republicans - are willing to please their electors of the corn belt.
One should also point out that many corn famers have gathered in cooperatives in order to build thei own ethanol plants.

Bush's target is 35 billion gallons of ethanol in 2017. We may not expect more than 30% of this ethanol - ie 11 billion gallons - to be produced from corn.
It would require 4 billion corn bushels, 2 billion bushels more than in 2006.

As you may know the corn market is already under pressure. Ethanol companies' operating margins are suffering: and even companies that use hedging will suffer from higher corn price sooner or later.

So the development of cellulose ehanol is in the own interest of the ethanol industry.
Corn is not sustainable if we want to reach the 35-billion-gallons target.

Even if there is not that much buzz in the media about cellulose ethanol for now, huge amounts are invested in R&D.

And I think we are the dawn of a series of breakthroughs. A stark example is the Canadian company Iogen that plans do build a new-generation plant in the USA next year: this plant should be able to process corn stover, wood waste or switchgrass. As soon as they will control their costs, you can be sure that there will be a massive development of the cellulose ethanol industry.

Vanessa

You should read this column by George Monbiot: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2004/11/23/feeding-cars-not-people/
He eloquently argues against biofuels and makes a compelling case. However, for the record, it should also be pointed out that the corn being grown for ethanol is totally inedible, so it's not like it could *actually* be feeding the poor. But still.

Lori V.

Vanessa, is the corn inedible for the farming industry as well? It takes an enormous amount of corn to sustain America's meat craving. Also, if they are re-appropriating other farmland for growing this stuff, that makes it all the worse.

Iogen is the company that was being profiled in the E magazine article I was talking about. I think that if ethanol is to be even partially viable, it will have to be cellulosic ethanol.

reden

It is right. Ethanol is the first step. You will see more biofuels coming up and about soon.

Christy O

Also, the amount of energy it takes to grow and process the corn makes it not a good option for the long haul. And I've found that since all the gas here has switched to 10% ethanol my gas mileage has dropped 10%. Since I drive a hybrid, this really irritates me. I think ethanol is a bad idea for a fuel alternative.

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