The price of corn and other foods is soaring. And so are the cries from critics of a federal mandate to use corn for a fuel called ethanol. But the Department of Energy is investing up to a billion dollars in the development of new technologies for refining another type of ethanol. DOE spokesman John Mizroch:
“Science has been able to produce cellulosic ethanol, as it’s called, forever. The big issue is can we do it on a commercial basis.”
Cellulosic ethanol is produced from the stems and stalks of plants, wood pulp, corn cobs. In other words: it’s waste. Nicholasville, Kentucky-based Ecofin will receive up to 30 million dollars from the DOE to prove its bio-refinery can go commercial. It’s expected to be operational in 2010.
Note: This map from the Dept. of Energy shows the availability of biomass materials, from wood chips to plant waste. Areas in red could provide 500,000 tonnes of biomass; clear or yellow areas less than 100,000 tonnes. Image courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy.