Washington, D.C. — President Bush is pushing a new kind of ethanol – made from crop waste and wood chips, rather than corn – as a way to cut the use of foreign oil.
“Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years,” Bush said in his State of the Union message Tuesday.
Scientists have been working for years on economical methods of breaking down plant fiber, or cellulose, into the sugars needed for fermentation into alcohol. The technology also would make conventional ethanol plants more efficient, since it would be possible to make ethanol from the fiber found in corn kernels.
“We are excited about the president recognizing (ethanol) tonight. The renewables have really come of age,” said Leon Corzine, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association.
Bush called for federal money for additional research on cellulosic ethanol but didn’t say how much more. “By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past,” Bush said.
The energy bill passed by Congress last year authorized as much as $1 billion in grants and loans for cellulosic ethanol projects. But the money still must be appropriated by lawmakers at a time when the budget deficit is squeezing federal spending. The legislation also authorized financial incentives to spur production of the first billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
“By using crop wastes as well as grain, we could be producing tens of billions of gallons of ethanol in this country every year and lessening our dependence on foreign petroleum,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s industrial and environmental section.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., said that Bush in the speech “once again showed why he is the most supportive, pro-renewable fuels president we’ve ever had.” Grassley said that the president spoke of the importance of using homegrown resources with new technology “that can bring us the energy we need without relying on an unstable area of the world for our energy needs.”
He added: “Iowa has proven success in supplying corn, soybeans and even wind for much of the fuel for renewable energy. I know rural America will be happy to provide even more help in the effort to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.”
The U.S. industry produces more than 4 billion gallons of ethanol a year. Iowa, which accounts for about one-quarter of the nation’s production, has 25 ethanol plants; 13 of them are at least partly farmer-owned.
With an aggressive development plan, the nation could produce the equivalent of nearly 7.9 million barrels of oil in ethanol per day by 2050, more than 50 percent of current oil use, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The environmental group estimates that the use of biofuels could trim greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 billion tons per year by 2050, or 80 percent of current trans- portation-related emissions.
Cellulosic ethanol is not a threat to the conventional ethanol business, Corzine said. “This market is going to be so large that we’re supportive of ethanol from all feedstocks,” he said.
Source: DesMoinesRegister Febr. 01, 2006.