All across the country today, most of the
gasoline that is sold at the pumps by all major fueling stations has 10 percent
ethanol in it. Some station may sell fuel that has no ethanol, but 10 percent is
usually the norm. Some automakers feel that ethanol
needs to be eliminated to hit future
fuel economy standards.
Supporters point to the claims that the use of
ethanol reduces the amount of fuel we need from imported crude oil and creates
jobs for farmers who grow corn. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of the
corn grown in the U.S. goes into ethanol production. Corn, however, isn't the
only plant material that we can get ethanol from.
ethanol comes from non-food crops and the EPA had expected the use of this
sort of ethanol produced from plants like switchgrass, waste products, and
woody pulp to increase significantly. The problem is that the mass production
of cellulosic ethanol hasn’t happened the way the EPA envisioned. An energy law
passed in 2007 mandated that the U.S. was to use 500 million gallons of
cellulosic ethanol in fuel by 2012. The fuel hasn’t been made in significant
enough quantities to meet that goal and the EPA is now proposing a cut back on
The EPA wants to cut the goal back to no more than
12.9 million gallons of the cellulosic ethanol in fuel next year and based on
market availability of the fuel that number could be far less. The
Detroit News reports that this is the third year in a row that
estimates for cellulosic ethanol use have been slashed. Previously the target
for 2012 and 2011 for cellulosic ethanol use were 100 million gallons each
year, which was cut to 6.5 million gallons for each year.
The EPA said, "[We will] continue to evaluate
the market as it works to finalize the cellulosic standard in the coming
months. The agency remains optimistic that the commercial availability of
cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead."
To reach the future goals for cellulosic ethanol
production, the government is looking to help companies break ground on new
refineries to produce cellulosic ethanol. President Obama said in March,
"Over the next two years, we'll help entrepreneurs break ground for four
next-generation biorefineries — each with a capacity of more than 20 million
gallons per year."
The reason for the big push to move from
corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol is that some claim the high use of
corn for fuel is driving up the price of some food products.
The U.S. Senate recently voted to repeal
the subsidy on ethanol of $0.45 cents per gallon.