On the Path to Low Cost Renewable Fuels, an Important Breakthrough
April 24, 2013
by Leslie Pezzullo, Technology Manager, Bioenergy Technologies Office
America’s homegrown fuel resources, from wood chips to the leaves and stalks of corn plants, are plentiful. Research finds that these resources could produce enough clean, renewable fuel to replace about 30% of the nation’s current petroleum consumption. Still, on the path to creating a strong, thriving biofuels industry, there are challenges we continue to address. That's why the Energy Department is working with researchers, industry, and other partners to increase the reliability and cost-effectiveness of renewable fuel production.
The good news is we are making progress, particularly when it comes to cellulosic ethanol. For the uninitiated, cellulosic ethanol is fuel produced from the inedible, organic material abundant in agricultural waste, including grasses, farm waste, and virtually every type of plant. While cellulosic ethanol represents a huge opportunity for the renewable fuels industry, the high costs and inefficiencies associated with the technology are barriers to its commercialization. However, with major technology milestones met by researchers at our national labs and industry partners, that’s all starting to change.
Last fall, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) successfully demonstrated the technical advances needed to produce cellulosic ethanol cost competitively at $2.15 per gallon, a process that was modeled at $9 per gallon just a decade ago. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.