Grain and Cellulosic Working Together to Fuel America

By Tom Buis | September 12, 2011

Four years ago, in December 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act with the intent of moving our nation toward greater energy independence and security. The renewable fuel standard (RFS) portion of EISA called for the increased production of clean renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, by 2022.

Initially, many people thought we couldn’t meet the stated goals of the RFS but we succeeded in growing the production of ethanol from corn and sorghum and we are on the cusp of producing biofuels from next generation feedstocks. Grain ethanol is now 10 percent of our nation’s fuel supply. It creates American jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and it is the most competitive fuel in the world today.

Nonetheless, just four years into what was meant to be a 15 year plan, critics of ethanol who want to protect their vested interests are once again skeptical of the ethanol industry’s ability to produce next generation biofuels and continue the efficiency advancements of first generation ethanol.

But we can. The RFS and EISA set goals that we could reach, if given the right circumstances and elimination of barriers that prevent the natural expansion of our industry.

What can be done to help move us forward?

First, we need commonsense legislative and regulatory policies that remove the barriers to the market that stifle innovation. The ethanol industry can create jobs in the United States that can’t be outsourced, improve the environment and give consumers savings and choice at the pump through full implementation of E15, tax credits for installing flex-fuel pumps and requirements that all automobiles be flex-fuel capable.

Second, we must stop all the political rhetoric to roll back our nation’s commitment to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. We are well on the way and while some would try to pit one feedstock against another on the production of biofuel, as a nation, we need to do all.

Lastly, we must stop the regulatory efforts to penalize the production of biofuels based on the unproven concept of indirect land use change.

As an industry, we have recognized reform is necessary if we are going to make the advancements that will help our nation become energy independent. And new innovations at existing ethanol plants will continue to increase efficiency, reduce water use and boost the amount of energy derived from cellulosic biomass and algae.

When it comes to the debate of grain ethanol versus cellulosic ethanol, we don’t have to choose one or the other—it is both. It is today’s technology as well as tomorrow’s technology that will help our nation succeed.

Author: Tom Buis
CEO, Growth Energy