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Thursday, August 25, 2005

More on Ethanol

The Case for Ethanol by Anna Halpern-Lande.

"...in the next 10 years, ethanol feedstock will move from harvested corns and sugars to the vast amounts of cellulosic waste that currently are landfilled or burned. Cellulosic material -- such as rice straw and hulls, wheat straw, forestry waste, and corn stover -- are all currently problematic for farmers and foresters. However, these materials can be transformed using enzymatic processes into sugars and ligin. The sugars can be processed into ethanol, biodiesel, or other specialty chemicals, and the ligin can be used as a clean fuel source, potentially allowing the ethanol facility to use zero net energy in its operations.

"Using cellulosic waste will be critical if ethanol markets are to mature. The recently passed energy bill creates a nationally mandated threshold to 7.5 billion gallons, which would result in 5% of gasoline displaced by ethanol. If, as some estimate, our capacity to produce corn-based ethanol will max out at around 10 billion gallons, we simply will not have enough corn. Corn stover -- the stalk and leaves from corn -- along would add 7 to 12 billion gallons of ethanol capacity."

So the optimistic estimate is for corn-based ethanol (including stover) to reduce our gasoline consumption by 15%. That doesn't sound like a whole hell of a lot, but I guess it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully, as the industry matures, the tax subsidies will diminish. Yeah, right. Not as long as Iowa is one of the first primaries/caucuses...

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