Most of the ethanol used in blended gasoline is produced from corn.   Only about 15% is “advanced biofuels” - ethanol made from various types of non-food biomass such as cornstalks and corncobs, wheat stalks, wood chips, and the pulp waste from fruit processing.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007), the EPA establishes specific production targets each year for corn ethanol and advanced biofuels.  The EPA recently proposed reducing the production targets for 2014.  A large proportion of the proposed reduction will come at the expense of advanced biofuels.  Back in 2007, EISA set a target for advanced biofuel production of 21 billion gallons by 2022.   With a proposed 2014 production rate of only 2.2 billion gallons, that target looks like a pipe dream now.

Why is the EPA reducing its targets for advanced biofuels?  A steady supply of corn ethanol is one reason.  In addition, gasoline manufacturers (and even the publics) general dislike the mandate that ethanol be blended with gasoline.  The original proposal was that gasoline should eventually contain 15% ethanol, but resistance to the higher level means that most gasoline still only contains 10% ethanol.  With corn alcohol production high and fuel alcohol demand low, advanced biofuels aren’t really needed right now.

The new proposed production targets may create difficulties for several companies doing research into advanced biofuels, as well as those companies currently building production facilities.  That’s too bad, because in the long run it would be nice to be able to produce ethanol economically from something other than a food source (corn).

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