Cellulosic Ethanol Here Today

Protecting the RFS is critically important
By Holly Jessen | June 12, 2012

“Don’t mess with the RFS” was the mantra of several speakers at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, including Tom Buis and Jim Collins. “[The renewable fuel standard] was a visionary piece of legislation and it really put the U.S. on the map as a world leader in biofuel production,” said Collins. Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, gave opening remarks the morning of June 6 at the conference in Minneapolis, followed by a keynote presentation by Collins, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences.

The RFS is likely safe from appeal in an election year, Buis said, but efforts to repeal it are brewing. “If we roll the RFS back we will pick winners and losers and the winner is oil,” he said, adding that it will halt the progress of advanced biofuels as well. Buis urged every person in attendance to get involved immediately. “Write a letter to every congressman and senator in your area,” he said, adding that there are plans to create a large coalition in support of the RFS. 

Collins seconded Buis, adding that the industry must stay on track with a unified and consistent message. Besides writing letters, Collins urged attendees to talk to their neighbors about the positives of ethanol. Employees working in the ethanol industry need to hear the story, too. “Fire them up as well, get them involved,” he said.

Cellulosic ethanol is finally becoming a reality, with companies building commercial-scale facilities. DuPont has operated a pilot plant in Vonore, Tenn., for the past two years and is now building a 28 MMgy corn stover cellulosic ethanol plant adjacent to Lincolnway Energy LLC, a corn-ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. The location was chosen partially due to a good supply of corn, access to rail and existing infrastructure. Being next to a well-run plant was also a draw. “We chose to work with Lincolnway so we can build on each other’s strengths,” he said.

DuPont is in good company, Collins said, mentioning BP, Abengoa Bioenergy and Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels as three others working on major commercial-scale plants. Altogether, the facilities will produce about 100 MMgy cellulosic ethanol and create more than 500 direct jobs. “All of these numbers start to tell a story,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that story is, commercial development of cellulosic ethanol is a reality. It’s here today.”  —Holly Jessen