March 5, 2006

Governors Support Ethanol from Biomass

In April 2005, the Governors' Ethanol Coalition drafted a set of recommendations for the federal government reflecting their views regarding the need for R&D in ways to expand the feedstock available for conversion to ethanol and provide economic incentives and support for that would lower the financial risk of deployment of commercial-scale facilities of these new technologies. Some excerpts from their report of recommendations:


Ethanol From Biomass: America’s 21st Century Transportation Fuel
April 2005
Governors’ Ethanol Coalition

While the ethanol industry is growing rapidly and on target to produce roughly 5 billion gallons a year by 2007 and can meet the 8 billion gallon goal by 2012 with encouragement, production significantly above that amount may impact corn prices and livestock feed costs. Therefore, to ensure an increasing share of the nation’s transportation fuel needs are met with ethanol the Coalition believes that the industry should be aided in establishing additional sources of production that include the use of lower-value, higher availability biomass feedstocks so that the nation can meet and even exceed this 10 percent long-term goal.

The use of ethanol, particularly biomass-derived ethanol, can produce significant savings in carbon dioxide emissions. This
approach offers a no regrets policy that reduces the potential future risks associated with climate change and has the added benefit of economic development. In fact, ethanol’s power to bring economic growth to small farms, agricultural cooperatives, and larger agribusiness concerns is already being realized in some rural areas of the nation. Continuing the growth trend through the production of biomass-derived ethanol can make current production more efficient and diversify feedstocks to include such sources as corn stover, wood waste, municipal solid waste, and grasses–offering the potential for ethanol production in every region of the nation.

The Coalition found that of the many lauded studies on expanding cellulosic (biomass) biofuels nearly all reach the same
conclusions including the need to: (1) dramatically increase funding for research, applied research, and integration of
technologies and processes; and (2) invite creativity through broadly defined research and demonstration objectives rather than tight prescriptions. The studies also made clear that increased scale and low-cost financing alone would not achieve substantial production cost reductions. Research is needed. Thus, the Coalition recommends a targeted, substantial investment in research, applied fundamentals, and innovation to:
• Overcome the recalcitrance of biomass;
• Enable product diversification including fuels, animal feed protein, and chemicals; and
• Make advances in feedstock production.

A theme that should be stressed in research and development efforts is the expansion of ethanol production capability to all
regions of the country through the use of a range of agricultural and non-agricultural biomass (e.g., corn stover, forest products waste, grasses, municipal solid waste). Diverse feedstocks and expanded co-products will enable the industry to significantly add to their technical capabilities, as well as overall ethanol production capacity.

Research alone will not achieve the longer-term goal of producing 10 percent of our transportation fuel from domestic, renewable resources. One of the most significant barriers to commercialization of biomass ethanol technology is the unproven nature of the technology in large-scale commercial facilities and the inherent reluctance of the financial markets to risk capital. The Governors’ Ethanol Coalition recommends that the federal government offer market-based production incentives for commercial demonstration and technology application to support large-scale operations resulting in production of 1 billion gallons of biomass-derived ethanol a year at a cost that is competitive with gasoline and diesel.


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