In the face of rising gas prices and increasing turmoil in the Middle East, President Barack Obama today called for a one-third cut in oil imports by 2020. The President’s plan to accomplish this goal relies on a variety of energy sources including increased domestic oil and gas production.
But the aspect of the President’s plan that is of particular interest to our company is his call to increase biofuels production and use. Specifically, the President wants at least four commercial-scale refineries producing cellulosic ethanol or advanced biofuels to break ground within the next two years to help launch next generation biofuels in America.
My company has been making steady progress toward the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol for more than a decade. But the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard, along with support from the Department of Energy and the Iowa Power Fund, allowed us to dramatically speed up our efforts. Today, we have an operating pilot facility producing cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and light stover and plans to construct a full-scale commercial plant later this year.
Our model for cellulosic ethanol builds on the foundation of our 1.7 billion gallons of corn ethanol production capacity. We will bolt cellulosic technology onto our corn ethanol plants so that we can benefit from the infrastructure that is already in place and our existing relationships with farmers, many of whom are investors in those plants. The corn ethanol plants will also become more efficient because a byproduct of the cellulosic will be used to power both the cellulosic and corn ethanol production facilities. Because we use a waste product to produce cellulosic ethanol and generate power, an independent report found that our process reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 111 percent in comparison to gasoline. Cellulosic ethanol is a carbon sink, not a carbon producer.
In Virginia, researchers at Virginia Tech researchers have discovered an enzyme mixture that works in the presence of the toxic infused liquid biomass (hydrolysate), meaning that the detoxification step is unnecessary, reducing the cost of producing biofuels as well as increasing biofuel yields by avoiding the production of by-products and synthesis of cell mass