Cellulosic producers urge White House to act on RFS

Source: Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014


The cellulosic industry pressed the White House to reverse an earlier decision to lower the amount of biofuel in the country’s gasoline supply, while warning that a failure to do so would push growth of the fledgling industry to Asia and South America.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, POET-DSM, Dupont Industrial Biosciences, among other companies, said the Renewable Fuel Standard — a law that requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other products to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy – has attracted billions of dollars in investments into cellulosic ethanol production. Cellulosic ethanol, seen as more environmentally friendly than conventional ethanol, produces the renewable fuel from crop residue, grasses and wood chips.

“What often goes unnoticed is the fact that Iowa is also leading the charge when it comes to the commercial deployment of the lowest carbon fuel in the world: cellulosic ethanol,” company executives said a letter dated Tuesday. “While the current proposal has already curtailed investment and delayed projects, there is still time to get the RFS back on track.”

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year setting cellulosic production at 17 million gallons, far below the 1.75 billion Congress had required in 2007. A final rule outlining 2014 production for the Renewable Fuel Standard is expected this fall and the EPA is expected to increase the proposed targets issued last fall.

“If the proposed methodology is not fixed in the final rule, the United States will no longer be the global leader for advanced biofuel investment and the 2014 rule will have inadvertently done more than your worst critics have to harm a low carbon industry you have always championed,” the executives said.

Despite falling short of cellulosic production goals in recent years, producers of the nascent fuel are starting to show signs of delivering.

Last week, Poet-DSM celebrated the opening of its $275 million facility in Emmetsburg. DuPont has a cellulosic ethanol plant under construction in Nevada. That $225 million facility, also using corn residue, is expected to be completed later this year. And Tuesday Quad County Corn Processors opened a cellulosic facility next to its existing corn ethanol plant in northwest Iowa that will enable it to produce 2 million gallons of the fuel annually.