• Jun 29th 2010 at 9:57AM
  • 13
The U.S. Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS2) becomes effective Thursday, July 1 and it describes a whole lot of changes for the biofuels industry in the U.S in the coming decade or so. To prepare for the changes and to figure out just what's even possible, the USDA issued a "Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022" last week. One thing that's not changing – not yet, anyway - is the dominating role of ethanol made from corn in the U.S.
With far fewer farmers required to feed many more people today compared to 60 years ago, the report states, something needs to change in rural America. in 1950, 15 percent of Americans were "directly involved in production agriculture." Today, it's less than two percent. Thus, the USDA says, "growing a domestic biofuels market is part of overall USDA rural strategy to help rebuild rural America."

Part of that diversity will come from figuring out ways to make cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels at reasonable costs using things other than corn. The Roadmap looks at ways to make advanced biofuels from, "switchgrass, soybean oil, corn oil, crop residues, woody biomass" and things like "biomass (sweet) sorghum, energy cane, and camellia." The USDA is much more confident than the EPA about the amount of biofuel the U.S can produce from dedicated energy crops like switchgrass and energy cane. The EPA predicts 7.9 billion gallons by 2022, the USDA says 13.4 billion. You can read the report for yourself here (PDF) and get more information over at Green Car Advisor.

[Source: USDA via Green Car Advisor]


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  • 13 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      biofuel should have the requirement that no fossil fuel is used to produce it at any stage of the process
        • 5 Years Ago
        that would be a very significant change but yes somehow. maybe a green food label at first. otherwise it would be like saying no fossil fuel allowed for cars from day to day
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, food too!
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is frustratingly stupid, senseless, and further delays our getting off oil.

      There's nothing wrong with boring, non-glamorous, cheap, simple old sugar/starch ethanol made from corn. The food vs. fuel myth is nonsense - food corn production is UP despite ethanol corn production being up severalfold. We have huge slack capacity - farmers paid not to farm, the majority of our farmland uncultivated, etc. We can radically expand corn ethanol production without threatening the food supply at all.

      As for inedible biomass, that can be made into methanol more cheaply and easily than cellulosic ethanol - no need for years of expensive slow, kick the can down the road research.

      The key barrier to switching to alcohol fuel is not any deficiency in production capacity, nor any other inadequacy of existing methods. It's THAT THE CARS CAN'T USE THE FUEL!!!!!!

      I want to get a megaphone into the ear of some of these policymakers sometimes.

      IT'S THAT THE CARS CAN'T USE THE FUEL!!!

      It doesn't matter how much you subsidize or encourage a fuel if the cars out there can't use it.

      The most important and urgent need we have to get off oil is to mandate that all new cars sold in America be fully flex-fueled, able to run equally easily on any alcohol fuel (ethanol AND METHANOL) as on gasoline. This would cost automakers only about $130 per car, but by itself would cause a revolution. Since 10% of cars on the road at any given time are new that year, in only about 3-4 years we'd have a critical mass of alcohol fuel compatible cars such that gas stations would race each other to switch at least one pump to alcohol to avoid being undercut, especially by methanol which is very cheap.

      Make the cars able to run on the fuel, and all else follows.

      It's our failure to take that crucial, simple step that has made all our past efforts to promote alcohol fuel so ineffective. This "renewable fuel standard" is yet more ineffective, time-wasting, money-wasting, political momentum-squandering dithering, helping ensure that for years to come the oil cartel will loot the world and fund the death cult's war against us all.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I would like to mention the very real possibility that Chevron purchases the cellulosic ethanol enzyme patents.
        • 5 Years Ago
        jzj, non sequitur. You replied to a post I didn't write, one in which I denigrated liquid-fueled ICEs and pushed for BEVs instead.

        What I actually posted above was:

        1) a criticism of cellulosic ethanol for reasons of cost, timeframe, and falsehood-driven rationale ("food vs. fuel");

        2) a defense of existing, cheap, fast methods of alternative liquid fuels, namely methanol (from inedible biomass) and ethanol (from conventional sugar/starch sources such as corn);

        3) a proposed strategy of making cars compatible with alcohol fuel, via mandating that all new cars be fully flex-fueled.
        • 5 Years Ago
        E.J. said, "only someone selling patented seeds with terminator genes and support chemicals thinks corn is a good idea."

        I don't sell either, but I KNOW corn is a better idea than petroleum.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "You praise, even fetishize, efficiency, making it the highest value"

        I do? When? Where?

        Or is that just copy and pasted from your playbook?


        "but then turn around and demonize agribusiness and biotech for seeking to maximize agricultural output with minimal resource input. You demonize fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, but bitterly oppose crops that have been genetically modified (at backbreaking, decades-long expense) to need far fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation."

        Agribusiness is doing a great job of demonizing itself, I'm of little help.

        And I'm not demonizing anything, I'm simply pointing to the fact that high volume corn production as a biomass is ridiculously inefficient, and requires vastly more environmentally taxing resources than alternatives.

        Again, only someone selling patented seeds with terminator genes and support chemicals thinks corn is a good idea.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "There's nothing wrong with boring, non-glamorous, cheap, simple old sugar/starch ethanol made from corn"

        If it just fell from the sky, then sure, you're right.

        But you're completely glossing over how horribly inefficient corn is as a biomass crop, and completely ignoring the environmental impact of chemical dependent agriculture.

        The only way corn makes sense is if you're Monsanto. The big astroturffed corn based biofuel push doesn't make sense on any level unless you're making a few billion selling patented seeds and the chemicals their dependent on.

        If you're really for alcohol based biofuels, you're not for corn.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Carney,

        I appreciate your sincere desire to get off of oil, but there are three deep realities you must consider: 1. America and the world has in place many hundreds of millions of ICE vehicles and even a totally committed effort to replace with them with EVs could not be completed in less than several decades; 2. Even the most optimistic battery developers do not foresee batteries with the energy density sufficient to replace the energy density of liquid fuel, and therefore for a number of applications ICE's will remain in place; 3. The electrical infrastructure to provide clean electricity to a world of EVs will not exist for decades, and therefore developing better ICE fuels is necessary to provide cleaner air.

        For my part, in addition to accelerating the introduction of EVs, I believe we should also ensure that existing vehicles and coming hybrids should be running on clean fuel, and this most certainly means the use of truly beneficial (i.e., non-corn) ethanol. I encourage the adoption of existing methodologies that can readily scale up the production of ethanol from non-agricultural lands, such as sorghum.
        • 5 Years Ago
        E. J., posts like yours exhibit doublethink. You praise, even fetishize, efficiency, making it the highest value, but then turn around and demonize agribusiness and biotech for seeking to maximize agricultural output with minimal resource input. You demonize fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, but bitterly oppose crops that have been genetically modified (at backbreaking, decades-long expense) to need far fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.

        In any case, as world villains go, corn farmers and peaceful agribusiness firms are insignificant compared to OPEC, its constituent governments, and the rival death cults they fund that make violent war on all of us.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't think we can take farm based biofuels very seriously until the farmers can produce enough of their own fuels to power their own equipment and have some left over to sell. That is unlikely to happen with corn based ethanol, but it might happen with other biofuels.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Chris M., it goes back to the machines, not the production capacity. If John Deere sold tractors that could run on ethanol, or biomethanol-dervied di methyl ether diesel, etc., your point would be relevant. But since those machines are petroleum-only, farmers are stuck. If you want to jeer someone for that situation, jeer the manufacturers, or the politicians who won't make alcohol fuel compatibility a requirement for new farm equipment sales. Blaming the farmer, or ethanol, is blaming the victim.
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