Biofuel in the United States

In today’s climate of rising automobile fuel prices and oil peak some people have began to implement this form of alternative energy in the United States once again.

Biofuels are not just limited to liquid fuels. One of the often overlooked uses of biomass in the United States is in the gasification of biomass. There is a small, but growing number of people using woodgas to fuel cars and trucks all across America. [ [ Woodgas used as alternative energy to fuel cars and truck] ]

The United States produces mainly biodiesel (the largest user is the U.S. ArmyFact|date=January 2008) and ethanol fuel, which is mainly made from corn (food bioethanol). As of 2005, the United States is the largest producer of ethanol with 16 billion liters/year while Brazil produced nearly the same amount (15.5 billion liters).Fact|date=January 2008 Cellulosic biofuels are under development, to avoid upward pressure on food prices and land use changes that would be expected to result from a major increase in use of food biofuels.

Biofuels are mainly used mixed with fossil fuels. They are also used as additives.

The challenge is to expand the market for biofuels beyond the farm states where they have been most popular to date. ["The craze for maize", "The Economist", May 12, 2007, pp.33-34] Flex-fuel vehicles are assisting in this transition because they allow drivers to choose different fuels based on price and availability.

It should also be noted that the growing ethanol and biodiesel industries are providing jobs in plant construction, operations, and maintenance, mostly in rural communities. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry created almost 154,000 U.S. jobs in2005 alone, boosting household income by $5.7 billion. It also contributed about $3.5 billion in tax revenues at the local, state, and federal levels.Worldwatch Institute and Center for American Progress (2006). [ "American energy: The renewable path to energy security"] ]

Crane, an American based Green Holdings company, has an ethanol reformation system that uses the high octane of ethanol fuel. This increases the efficiency of an ethanol burning engine by 50%. The inventor Russel Gehrke says he matches ethanol’s flame speed to the engine’s workload in a different and more efficient way than automakers have used to dateFact|date=February 2008.

"The United States leads the world in corn and soybean production, but even if 100% of both crops were turned into fuel, it would be enough to offset just 20% of on-road fuel consumption." [ TIME April 7, 2008. p 44.] # verify credibility|date=May 2008


The United States used biofuel in the beginning of the 20th century. For example, models of Ford T ran with ethanol fuel. Then the interest in biofuels declined until the first and second oil shock (1973 and 1979).

The Department of Energy established the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 1974 and started to work in 1977. The NREL publish papers on biofuels. Congress also voted the Energy Policy Act in 1994 and a newer in 2005 to promote renewable fuels.


The "Energy Policy Act of 2005", which calls for 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels to be used annually by 2012, will also help to expand the market. [Worldwatch Institute and Center for American Progress (2006). [ "American energy: The renewable path to energy security"] ]

Ethanol fuel

Flexi-fuel vehicles

Most cars on the road today in the U.S. can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends. Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and GM are among the automobile companies that sell “flexible-fuel” cars, trucks, and minivans that can use gasoline and ethanol blends ranging from pure gasoline up to 85% ethanol (E85). By mid-2006, there were approximately six million E85-compatible vehicles on U.S. roads.


GreenHunter Energy, Inc. has begun commercial operations at its biodiesel refinery in Houston, Texas, that can produce million gallon|105 per year of biodiesel. That production capacity makes it the largest biodiesel refinery in the United States, barely beating out the million gallon|100 per year biodiesel refinery built by Imperium Renewables in Washington.

For comparison, the total U.S. production capacity for biodiesel reached million gallon|2240 per year in 2007, although poor market conditions held 2007 production to about million gallon|450, according to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). []

In 2006, Fuel Bio Opened the largest biodiesel manufacturing plant on the east coast of the United States in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Fuel Bio's operation is capable of producing a name plate capacity of 50,000,000 US gallons of biodiesel per year. [|It's Clean, Green and from a bean (New Jersey, Star Ledger)]

By state


Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed legislation in July 2007 that will require all gasoline sold in the state to be blended with 10% bioethanol (a blend known as BE10) and all diesel fuel sold in the state to be blended with 2% biodiesel (a blend known as BD2). [ [ Relating to fuel; creating new provisions; amending ORS 215 ] ]

Oregon currently has the only biofuels station in the country that can be used by any type of vehicle.


Michigan State University researcher Bruce Dale says that 30% of USA’s energy can be achieved by 2030. The greenhouse emissions are reduced by 86% for cellulose compared to corn’s 29% reduction. A plant is being built now in Georgia to make up to 100 million gallons per year [ [ Michigan can have food and biofuel] Friday, November 30, 2007 ] .


Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a bill on 2008-05-12 that will require all diesel fuel sold in the state for use in internal combustion engines to contain at least 20% biodiesel by 2015-05-01. [ [ EERE News: Minnesota to Require 20% Biodiesel Blends by 2015, with Caveats ] ]

Biofuel companies

Unfortunately, costs of producing ethanol from cellulosic feedstock such as wood chips are still about 70% higher than production from corn, because of an extra step in the production process, when compared to production of corn-derived ethanol. Until recently, the idea of extracting ethanol from farm waste and other sources was barely clinging to life in the recesses of university campuses and federal labs, because production problems, as well as the need to bring together a vast team of specialists. Consider: Finding a bacterium from a cow's intestinal tract or from elephant dung that has the correct enzyme to degrade cellulose, and then bringing in geneticists to modify that enzyme kept this discouraging feat from ever growing beyond its embryonic state. Now, that is all changing with a race by approximately thirty companies attempting to accomplish this alchemical feat, and in the process working directly or coordinating with: environmental groups, biotechnology firms, some major oil companies, chemical giants, auto makers, defense hawks and venture capitalists. The winner will be whoever can make cellulosic ethanol in mass quantities for as little money per gallon as possible.

With the majority of such biofuel companies (Iogen Corporation, SunOpta's BioProcess Group, Genencor, Novozymes, [ [ Novozymes is the world leader in bioinnovation - Novozymes ] ] [ Dyadic International, Inc. (AMEX: DIL)] , Kansas City-based Alternative Energy Sources, Inc. [Nasdaq:AENS] , Flex Fuels USA based in Huntsville, Alabama (now owned by Alternative Energy Sources), [ [ Alternative Energy agrees to buy Alabama company - Kansas City Business Journal: ] ] or BRI Energy, LLC, [ [ BRI Energy: Clean Technology for Renewable Energy ] ] Abengoa Bioenergy [ [ Abengoa Bioenergy ] ] ) located in North America, the United States is in a unique position to lead the way in the development, production, and sale of a new source of energy.

One notable company that deserves special mention is Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) which has already invested heavily into building approximately 100 corn-ethanol production plants, known as bio-refineries, and churns out about one-fifth of the country's ethanol supply. This occurred due to seasonal overcapacity in its corn syrup plants when surplus was available to produce ethanol. Moreover, ADM is in a unique position to utilize unused parts of the corn crop, and convert previously discarded waste into a viable product. ["A Bet on Ethanol, With a Convert at the Helm"; "New York Times", October 8, 2006, p. 9.] The hull surrounding corn contains fiber that the Decatur, Illinois, grain-processing giant's ethanol-making microorganisms can not use. Figuring out how to convert the fiber into more sugar could increase the output of an existing corn-ethanol plant by 15%. Consequently, ADM wouldn't have to figure out how to collect a new source of biomass but merely use the existing infrastructure for gathering corn - resulting in an advantage over its competitors. ADM executives want government help to build a plant that could cost between $50 million and $100 million. Prescient in their position in the quest for success, ADM recently hired the head of petroleum refining at Chevron, Patricia A Woertz, to metamorphasize ADM into the Exxon-Mobil of the ethanol industry. ["A Bet on Ethanol, With a Convert at the Helm"; "New York Times", October 8, 2006, p.1.] If ADM succeeds, it will catapult beyond the ethanol industry to compete with the larger, global energy industry. In essence, the old paradigm of processing a barrel of crude oil into gasoline will be replaced with processing a bushel of corn into ethanol.

Meanwhile DuPont, the chemical giant, is attempting to figure out how to construct a bio-refinery fueled by corn stover—the stalk and leaves that are left in the field after farmers harvest their crop. The company's goal is to make ethanol from cellulose as cheaply as from corn kernels by 2009. If it works, the technology could double the amount of ethanol produced by a field of corn.

Diversa Corporation, a biotech company based in San Diego, examined how biomass is converted into energy in the natural environment. They have found that the enzymes inherent in the bacteria and protozoa that inhabit the digestive tracts of the household termite efficiently convert 95% of cellulose into fermentable sugars. Using proprietary DNA extraction and cloning technologies, they were able to isolate the cellulose-degrading enzymes. By reenacting this natural process, the company created a cocktail of high-performance enzymes for industrial ethanol production enablers. Although still in the early stages of this work, the initial results are promising. Currently, these expensive enzymes cost about 25 cents per gallon of ethanol, although this price is very likely to decline by half in the coming years.

Construction of the first U.S. commercial plant producing cellulosic ethanol begins will commence in the State of Iowa in February 2007. The Voyager Ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, owned by Poet Energy, LLC, will be converted from a 50 million-gallon-a-year conventional corn dry mill facility into a 125 million-gallon-a-year commercial-scale biorefinery producing ethanol from not only corn but also the stalk, leaves and cobs of the corn plant. Most ethanol plants rely on natural gas to power their processing equipment.The process to be used at the Emmetsburg plant will enable the plant to make 11% more ethanol by weight of corn and 27% more by area of corn. The process cuts the need for fossil fuel power at the plant by 83% by using some of its own byproduct for power. The $200 million plant is scheduled to begin in February and take about 30 months to complete. Project completion is contingent upon partial funding from a USDOE grant, which is likely as the U.S. Government views the renewable energy project as a full-blown national security issue.

ee also

*Energy policy of the United States
*Ethanol fuel in the United States
*E85 in the United States
*Greenhouse gas emissions by the United States
*Renewable energy commercialization in the United States
*List of renewable energy topics by country


External links

* [ How much biofuel does the United States consume?]
* [ Alternative Fueling Station Locator] (EERE).
* [ Cellulosic biofuels]
* [ Biofuels Workshop June 2008]

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