Grassroots campaign calls for more emphasis on advanced ethanol

By Erin Voegele | November 14, 2012

A new white paper published by Ethanol Across America, a grassroots educational campaign of the Clean Fuels Foundation, calls for a stronger emphasis on advanced ethanol from alternative sugar and starch feedstocks under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program. The paper, titled “Generation 1.5 Ethanol: The Bridge to Cellulosic Biofuels,” was written by Philip Madson, president of Katzen International Inc.

In the paper, Madson argued that it is unrealistic to transition directly from first generation corn ethanol to second generation cellulosic ethanol. Rather, he said that a more realistic path forward would be to follow the proven model that has yielded a continuous stream of commercial innovations since the introduction of corn ethanol.

Madson also stated in the paper that delays in the development of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production are threatening to the goals of the RFS, and the program itself. “The lack of cellulosic biofuels production has not gone unnoticed,” Madson said in the paper. “The American Petroleum Institute has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to reduce the 2012 [RFS] volume requirements. The growing backlash against the [RFS] schedule by API and others could ultimately unravel the [RFS].”

According to Madson, altering the RFS to provide greater support for alterative advanced biofuels will strengthen the program. “The growth of the biofuels industry will be facilitated by modifying [the RFS] to shift away from the singular focus on cellulosic biofuels by implementing polices to promote the development of a wider range of advanced biofuels,” Mason continued in the paper. In addition, he said the next logical step towards cellulosic biofuels is “Gen 1.5 ethanol,” which he defines as ethanol produced via pathways meeting U.S. EPA’s definition of advanced biofuels. One example is sorghum ethanol produced at facilities that employ biogas combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems.

Madson argues that the RFS regulations are limiting the development “Gen 1.5” biofuels, as the program offers few incentives to develop advanced biofuel projects that use non-cellulosic feedstocks. In addition to sorghum, Madson noted that triticale, barley, wheat, industrial sweet potatoes, energy sugar beets, and other sugar and starch feedstocks show potential.

A full copy of the whitepaper can be downloaded from the Ethanol Across America website