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If you're waiting for bio-fuels, you'll be waiting a lot longer

February 26, 2013|By Ronald D. White
  • U.S. companies produced 20,000 gallons of advanced bio-fuels in 2012, or less than 1% of the nation's 500 million gallon goal.
U.S. companies produced 20,000 gallons of advanced bio-fuels in 2012,… (Energy Information Administration )

Oh what big plans we had for advanced bio-fuels.

In the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the nation was given the lofty production target of 500 million gallons of so-called cellulosic bio-fuels for 2012.

By cellulosic, we mean bio-fuel that comes from garbage, biomass like wood waste, sugarcane bagasse (waste residue from sugarcane processing), and other items that are considered superior to common corn-based ethanol.

In times of drought, a ready supply of cellulosic bio-fuels would ease the burden on the nation’s corn crop.

So, how close did we come in 2012?

“Several companies combined to produce about 20,000 gallons of fuels using cellulosic biomass” in 2012, according to a report today from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

That’s just 0.004% of the goal. Using another standard of measurement, the EIA says that 476 barrels of cellulosic bio-fuels were produced in the U.S. last year, or about 1.3 barrels a day.

By contrast, the U.S. produced 878,000 barrels a day of corn ethanol, in a country that was consuming about 18.6 million barrels of crude oil…a day.

Why so short of the mark?

“Despite the growth potential over the next several years, the path to commercial biofuels has not been smooth,” the report said.

“A number of bio-fuels projects, including one from BP Biofuels in Highlands County, Fla., have been canceled before starting major construction,” the report said. “In addition, many projects have experienced delays in their commercialization attempts."

The EIA also said that potential producers were also finding it tough to get financing in the aftermath of the debt crisis. There were also unforeseen technical difficulties. The nation’s boom in natural gas production also stole away a sense of urgency.

The EIA is forecasting that cellulosic bio-fuel production in the U.S. could reach 5 million gallons this year, rising to 250 million gallons by 2015.

The goals set by the Energy Independence and Security Act called for 1 billion gallons this year and for 16 billion gallons by 2022.


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