While some cellulosic ethanol producers, such as Coskata, may be able to survive in a $2.00/gallon gasoline world, most ethanol and biofuel producers are teetering on the brink of disaster. Meanwhile, a 2007 energy law championed by President George W. Bush mandates that the U.S. produce 11.1 billion gallons of biofuels this year, 60 percent more than in 2007.
President Barack Obama is looking to enforce this mandate and is creating a special task force to come up with ways to keep biofuels competitive at current gas prices. He faces a steep uphill battle.
Food crop-based VeraSun Energy, a partner of GM, filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Since that time, three other major ethanol producers have filed for bankruptcy protection. While the $787B USD federal stimulus law offers some relief in the form of $786.5M USD in funding to accelerate biofuels research and boost commercialization by providing additional funding for commercial biorefineries, many fear it won't be enough to save the industry.
On Tuesday, President Obama announced the new task force and called on Americans to embrace ethanol. He states, "We must invest in a clean energy economy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The steps I am announcing today help bring us closer to that goal. If we are to be a leader in the 21st century global economy, then we must lead the world in clean energy technology. Through American ingenuity and determination, we can and will succeed."
He hopes the stimulus package will kick off such a revival, with $480M USD for pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries; $176.5M USD for commercial-scale biorefinery projects; and $130M USD for research, among other things. By 2022, the 2007 energy law requires the U.S. to use 36 billion gallons of biofuels, including 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels and 1 billion gallons of biodiesel.
One key obstacle for the food-crop ethanol industry is that it has been accused both of raising food prices and contributing to global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating whether the large amounts of energy expended on crop harvest, processing, and the water and energy spent during fermentation or other methods equates to more net emissions of greenhouse gases than gasoline well to pump to tailpipe emissions.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen disputes such claims stating, "EPA has reconfirmed the fact that when directly compared to gasoline, ethanol significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This apples-to-apples comparison reaffirms the substantial greenhouse gas reductions offered by ethanol calculated in numerous studies including one done recently for the International Energy Agency."
The current EPA figures he refers to do include impact from growing corn and the impact on land use -- such as cutting down forests to grow crops. California already considers such indirect factors in its own emissions standard. Jeremy Martin, of the Union of Concerned Scientists says that such consideration is essential, stating, "The best biofuels take a big bite out of global warming emissions without gobbling up our food crops."
Food-crop ethanol, despite its downsides, does provide a key nationalistic advantage of moving production inside the U.S. and protecting our nation's fuel source from unstable foreign national influences. Ultimately, cellulosic ethanol may be the best bet as it is both cheap, doesn't use food crops, features lower emissions (in many cases), and offers the same national security benefits. While no companies currently offer production-level cellulosic ethanol production, a handful, like Coskata, are on the verge of production-level commercial deployment.
quote: These 1950's ideas are getting really old, why don't we try something new for a change and you shut the hell up
quote: Good point, hemp can create alot of products.
quote: About libertarians, it is really interesting how everyone that I know who has really looked into economics and politics have become libertarians. Heck, as moderate as I try to be, I just find it really hard to not consider myself to be at least biased towards libertarianism...
quote: The libertarian position just makes the most sense, the majority of Americans don't think the government needs to spend us into oblivion (fiscal conservatism) and they don't think the government needs to be invading our private lives (social liberalism).
quote: They're going to figure this out now that we're out of the euphoria of the bubble.
quote: Anyway 2$/gallon is sooo low, americans pay nothing for gas.
quote: In order to grow a dedicated crop, you have to plant it on arable land, and there's only X amount of arable land around.
quote: First of all, are any fuel-candidate plants amenable to growing that way?
quote: Secondly, it's not a low-cost way to grow things anyway...It costs a lot of money to get the nutrients to the plants that they'd normally get out of the soil. Thereby upsetting even further any energy equity equations.
quote: and produce anywhere from 40k to 100k gallons of biodiesel per acre.
quote: So 53% of the country is made up of hippies now?
quote: I'd bet like 90%, of the voters are average Americans, that do not have enough time or will to make their own opinion on the candidates , be it the republicans or democrats camp.
quote: do us all a favor
quote: While Obama may have a higher IQ than Bush
quote: ...I'm pretty sure that if you had a fill-in-the-blank form like:_______________ has a higher IQ than Bush...it would be valid no matter what you put in the blank.
quote: whole facade breaks down into a string of half baked incomplete thoughts and an "uh" fest.
quote: 1. Who cares
quote: 2. Which Republican would you suggest we vote in?
quote: 3. What Republican or Democrat has done anything but continue what was put in place before them?
quote: That guy doesn't even speak properly English and he's the president?
quote: Obama is not perfect, and no one should be.
quote: Unless you are delusional, it's pretty obvious that Obama is extremely smart. It doesn't mean he's going to be a great president at the end, but at least the foundation is there.
quote: Just because you don't like his policies doesn't mean he's not intelligent. Get over it. He's smart and that's that.
quote: It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.
quote: While Obama may have a higher IQ than Bush, he definitely strikes me as a more inept president because he really has no clue what he believes in.
quote: Sure he does... It's whatever the teleprompter tells him to say.
quote: switching crops to ethanol production...only helps eliminate the government subsidization of our agriculture; where we pay people for their crops because we have too much surplus.
quote: DIESEL DIESEL...they need to promote diesel cars and bio diesel like europe
quote: This is the stupidest thing I have ever seen Obama do including that one time he tried to go bowling
quote: I'm liberal, and democratic,
quote: You leftists
quote: That's a problem, but not as much of a problem as sacrificing
quote: Almost as much performance as the 335i turbo
quote: I'm calling on Obama to shut the f*ck up.
quote: Oh yay, DT shows again how dominated it is by a handful of extreme right wing nuts. Why?
quote: Because all the reasonable folks (and I don't mean democratic or leftists by that) see this place as pretty much hopeless and fled to more rational locales.
quote: Because Hydrogen is a pollutant. When released into the atmosphere it is explosive, and when burned in an engine it creates a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
quote: What would you rather the eventual replacement for gasoline to be?
quote: I don't think anyone is arguing that batteries are better than ethanol. But just because ethanol is better than batteries doesn't make it good.
quote: Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen disputes such claims stating, "EPA has reconfirmed the fact that when directly compared to gasoline, ethanol significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.