A recent report in the Kansas City Star
says a federal mandate to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol next
year from cellulose likely won’t be met. Both credit and legal troubles
Cellulosic ethanol is
made from grass and wood. Federal renewable energy goals require
producers of it to provide at least 16 billion gallons of fuel by 2022.
Reporter Steve Everly writes in the Star that the tight credit market
has stalled investments in new commercial-scale plants. And, a plant in
Alabama is repaying investors after a jury found the plant’s fuel was
being made with oil, not cellulose.
Protection Agency in now considering lowering the cellulosic biofuel
standard for 2010 from the mandated 100 million gallons.
But, opponents of
cellulosic ethanol say the government is forcing an energy source onto
the market that isn’t viable. Robert Bryce, a well-known columnist for
the Wall Street Journal, often argues against cellulosic ethanol. He
says the idea of ethanol from grass was first talked about in 1921. And,
that it’s not as efficient as oil and natural gas in providing energy.
On his blog robertbryce.com
he writes, “…ethanol’s energy density is only about two-thirds that of
gasoline. So that 32 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol only contains
the energy equivalent of about 21 billion gallons of gasoline.”
Bryce says ethanol also uses more resources to produce fuel without added benefit.
“…A September 2008 study
on alternative automotive fuels done by Jan Kreider, a professor
emeritus of engineering at the University of Colorado, and Peter S.
Curtiss, a Boulder-based engineer, found that the production of
cellulosic ethanol required about 42 times as much water and emitted
about 50 percent more carbon dioxide than standard gasoline.”
Some in the local oil and
natural gas industry say the market, not the federal government, should
decide what energy sources will work on a large scale.
“We’ve fiddled with the
agriculture markets to a point where we’re having problems with food
availability, so ethanol was a poor first choice. Wind power is good,
but limited. Solar power is good, but limited,” says Mickey Thompson,
CEO of TruEnergy Services, L.LC. “I would just like to see all of the
fuel sources stand on their own and be judged not just economically, but
in terms of the environmental impact, without too much governmental
interference. Let the markets sort of decide.”
The biomass sector of alternative energy received $800 million in the federal stimulus package earlier this year.
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