How Farm Waste May Make Biofuels Matter Again

on May 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Ethanol Industry Threatened By Midwest Drought

By Javier E. David

Imagine a world where leftover corn, wheat and wood chips can be used to power your car.

That’s the aim of cellulosic ethanol, a budding sector of the renewable fuel industry that finds itself struggling to reassert itself in a world of renewed popularity for oil and gas. The process aims to transform agriculture waste, most of which would normally be discarded, into a renewable source of fuel.

The process is heralded by ethanol advocates as a way to revive interest in a sector whose profile has declined recently. With the U.S. producing more natural gas and shale—and with critics questioning the wisdom of using food to power cars—enthusiasm for biofuels has fallen.

Still, the world’s largest economy produced about 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol, according to data from the Renewable Fuels Association. The size of the market – and the fact that ethanol fuel is projected to grow 40 percent over the next decade, according to USDA data –means there’s still scope to sell the market’s virtues.

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