House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson this week expressed frustration that an EPA decision on increased blends of ethanol in U.S. gasoline -- scheduled to have been made in May -- continues to be mired in delays.
The Minnesota Democrat also favors reclassifying ethanol as an "advanced biofuel" shifting some of the production mandates for cellulosic ethanol to that made from corn.
Relying heavily on ethanol produced from sugar cane, Brazil mandated 26-to-30 percent blends in its gasoline. Brazil declared itself energy independent in 2006. And proponents believe the U.S. could lessen its dependence on foreign oil by adopting similar standards.
To that end, "Project Liberty," a next generation cellulosic ethanol plant operated by an industry powerhouse is beginning to harvest the future.
POET LLC, the largest producer of ethanol in the United States, has begun what the company claims is the largest cellulosic biomass harvest in history. This fall, farmers in Iowa will begin collecting 56,000 tons of corn cobs and light stover that will serve as the feedstock for the planned POET cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
Scheduled to be online in 2012, the facility will be capable of producing 25 million gallons of ethanol per year from 300,000 tons of biomass. Figures from POET indicate it will take a 468 square mile area to meet the needed biomass fuel stock to sustain the Emmetsburg facility.
According to POET's website, "Removing approximately one ton of biomass from the average of 4.26 tons available per acre will not require any drastic changes in fertilizer management for producers." And a recent two-year study conducted by Iowa State University indicate planting between-row cover grasses could allow the removal of up to 95 percent of corn stover while maintaining yields.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required that 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel be produced in 2010. But earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency slashed the mandate by nearly 94% with a new target of 6.5 million gallons. Currently the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that 16 billion gallons cellulosic ethanol will be produced annually by 2022.