Japan's first commercial plant to produce ethanol for cars from locally-grown rice will reach full capacity of 1 million liters a year by March 2009. The project, which is being developed in Niigata (central Japan), has an estimated cost of 1.6 billion yen (about US $15 million), half of it coming from Japanese Government funding.

The plant will use two types of non-edible brown rice. Although this grain currently has a lower-than-expected yield of 602 kg per 10 ares (1,076 sq ft), far from the expected 800 kg, Japan expects to plant this type of rice in abandoned farmlands, because the country doesn't currently grow ethanol crops in order to mix the biofuel with gasoline.

Regarding competition with food, the Japanese are eating less rice per year, which is allowing the Government to allocate some spare farmland for this type of product.

[Source: Reuters via Planetark]

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