Biomass-powered ethanol plants called the goal

Biomass-powered ethanol plants called the goal

Biomass-powered ethanol plants should be the goal for the industry.

That’s one idea Bill Lee of the Renewable Fuels Association put forward during the Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s recent event, Farming Our Fuel: Growing a Sustainable Ethanol Industry.

Plants fueled by biomass would lower carbon inputs and shift the industry to a more sustainable base, Lee said.

“We need to move corn agronomy to a more sustainable platform, too,” he said, noting the commodity payments made to producers. “Ethanol as it’s made right now — corn ethanol — is not the most sustainable.”

Finding a way to reduce environmental impacts is part of figuring out how future plants will work, Lee said.

“This is an issue for everybody,” he said. It could mean reduced climate impacts, improved air quality and has the potential to improve sustainability.

Shifting the ethanol industry to cellulose feedstocks also changes the industry. States outside of the Corn Belt would then become interested in the industry because they could produce the renewable fuel from feedstocks available by region.

The ethanol industry’s growing, Lee said, although it doesn’t have the celebrity spokesmen of the biodiesel industry.

It has a history biodiesel doesn’t have, though, because it was a blend agent in gasoline during both world wars during gasoline shortages, and U.S. policy encouraged the ethanol industry during the oil shock in the 1970s, Lee said.

“Ethanol’s been around since the Model-T,” he said.

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