Cellulosic Firms Back Higher Ethanol Blends

Fight is on over raising ethanol blend rate above 10%.

Published on: Mar 20, 2009

The effort to encourage an increased in the ethanol blend rate from 10% to 15% gets new support this week, along with a diverse group of opposition. Thursday, leaders of nine cellulosic ethanol companies released a letter for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson in support of the Green Jobs waiver submitted by Growth Energy earlier this month. The waiver would boost the blend to 15%.

In the letter, the group supports the idea that assurance of a "growing market for ethanol is essential to commercializing cost-competitive advanced biofuels." Current ethanol producers have already hit the regulatory cap on the fuel and produce more than can be used under the current restrictions, they point out.

They note that cellulosic ethanol could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 86% relative to gasoline, according to U.S. Department of Energy reports. In addition, they note that a recent study by Sandia National Laboratories and General Motors found that plant and forestry waste and dedicated energy crops could sustainably replace nearly a third of gasoline use by 2030.

According to a Dow Jones report, however, has a diverse group of environmental and industry groups firing up in opposition. Worries over rising commodity prices, which they claim is caused by ethanol demand, have wreaked havoc on food production. In addition, the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers is worried that the higher blend could cause engine damage since today's auto power plants are so complicated.

Ethanol proponents, including the Renewable Fuels Association, say the science is already in and that the industry could move to the higher blend.