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Cellulosic, sugarcane, and biodiesel all get bigger bumps as well

For environmentalists and those pushing for oil independence the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency delivered mixed results, in its newly published 2012 alternative fuels targets.

I. New Mandatory Fuel Targets Land

The EPA has been granted the power by Congress to push alternative fuel targets under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), signed into law by President Bush.  The EISA set a hard target of reaching 36 billion gallons of production by 2022.

The EPA's proposed changes are seen below:


Yep, that's right the EPA is quietly bumping its corn ethanol production targets.  

II. Corn Ethanol Bump Sure to Produce Controversy

Of course the EPA also contains much larger increases for cellulosic ethanol/butanol (derived from woody plant waste); biomass-based diesel (e.g. refined spent cooking oil); and "advanced biofuel" (sugarcane ethanol, algal oil, etc.).  

It’s broadly known that corn ethanol both increases greenhouse gas emissions and increases food prices.  On the other hand it does provide a small shred of domestic security by removing some dependence on volatile foreign sources.

Corn ethanol
Corn ethanol is a contentious proposition. [Image Source: Cagle Cartoons]

Generally the mood is shifting against corn ethanol.  The EPA appears to be in the minority of remaining federal supporters.  Congress recently finalized the cut to corn ethanol's tax subsidy.

However, the corn ethanol industry will likely push the issue by simply raising prices to recoup their lost subsidy.  After all, for now the EPA has the right to force importers and refiners to use a certain amount of corn ethanol, regardless of how expensive it is.

III. Numbers Show Hope for Cellulosic Ethanol, Rising Promise of Algal Fuel

One interesting thing in the above figures to note is just how small the cellulosic ethanol market still is.  When the EISA was first proposed, the intended target for this type of biofuel was 250 million -- it's now orders of magnitude smaller.

Cellulosic ethanol
[Image Source: ASPO USA]

Cellulosic ethanol startup companies like Coskata seemed promising, but difficulty in establishing a solid food-chain to deliver biomass stock and finding the funding to scale laboratory work to production-scale designs has led to the great cellulosic ethanol fizzle.

That said, there's still hope for this novel technology, which generally earns praise for turning non-viable biomaterial (woody waste) into fuel.  Unlike the last few years, in 2012 the EPA is actually increasing the cellulosic ethanol target from the prior year (the last few years have been a series of declines).  That could signal the industry is turning the corner.

The steep rise in advanced biofuel also may be coming thanks to the U.S. Navy's deep investment in algal fuel, which cut costs from $424 USD/gallon last year to $26.67 USD/gallon this year.

Looking ahead, there's likely to be a brewing fight over the very large remaining corn ethanol requirement.  One can only hope that Congress doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater and ditch all of the requirements, including those that foster more fundamentally sound alternative fuel technologies like algal biofuel.

Sources: EPA [2012], [2011]

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Why aren't all Navy ships powered by nuclear?
By quiksilvr on 12/30/2011 2:40:35 PM , Rating: -1
Assuming that televisions never lie to me, aren't there naval carriers that already have live nuclear missiles on board? At that point, you might as well power the engines with nuclear power and don't use fuel at all (except for maybe fueling jets and helicopters).

RE: Why aren't all Navy ships powered by nuclear?
By SunLord on 12/30/2011 3:04:34 PM , Rating: 4
Uh all Navy carriers are nuclear powered and I'm not sure if all carriers still have nukes on board I know they were removed in the 90s but there was talk after 9/11 of rearming them but I don't remember if they ever did. The navy is made up of a lot more then carriers and none of those ships are powered by nuclear reactors outside of the subs.

Most of the ships are to small and "cheap" to make with the added cost of building them with reactors viable. We did have some nuclear power cruisers from the 70s to the 90s but they were all decommissioned under Bill Clinton after a very short life time the oldest Virgina class cruiser was just 19years old when it was scrapped.

By SunLord on 12/30/2011 3:10:11 PM , Rating: 2
They were designed with a 50year life span in mind and the oldest Nuclear powered cruiser when scrapped was just 34years old and the newest was 15.3years old.

RE: Why aren't all Navy ships powered by nuclear?
By V-Money on 12/30/2011 10:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
Quite a few ships are capable of carrying nuclear missiles. Not all nuclear weapons are the big ones that destroy nations, for instance there are nuclear tipped tomahawks available for pretty much any vessel that can carry a tomahawk. Whether they do or not is a different story.

With that said, I don't get your next statement, having nuclear weapons on board and being powered by nuclear power are 2 completely different things. Then again it doesn't matter since all carriers (and subs) are nuclear powered anyways (the John Kennedy was the last conventional powered carrier, and it was decommissioned in '07, although it was originally designed to be a nuclear carrier).

By twhittet on 1/1/2012 6:04:34 PM , Rating: 2
The only thing I can think of, is the extra security protocols that may be needed when dealing with nuclear of any kind. Otherwise, I also have no idea what he was talking about.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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