that calls into question the future, especially for the bottom line.” In response to this situation, some people have talked about trading with Brazil as a means to provide some of the “advanced biofuels” as they are presently defined.
It is the cellulosic biofuels component of the mix—with a mandate for 16 billion gallons by 2022—that seems most in jeopardy of not being achieved, he said. It is both an economic and a technological issue—economic in that the cellulosic biofuels cost too much, and technological because there has not been the breakthrough in technology necessary to produce those cellulosic biofuels efficiently. “It’s really two sides of the same coin,” Schnoor said.
One problem lies in the fermentation process of cellulosic enzyme. “The enzymes alone are costing on the order of a dollar per gallon,” he said, “and we’re trying to produce the fuel for roughly a dollar and a half per gallon, so we’re quite far away from a commercial cellulosic biofuel.” Furthermore, Schnoor noted, if the mandated production for cellulosic biofuels was to be met by 2015 and 2020 and 2022, the plants would have to be built now—and they are not. “So, it’s virtually assured that there’s no way we’re going to make that portion—the 16 billion gallons for cellulosic biofuels of the 36 billion gallon total.”
Background on Corn
Corn has a variety of uses, Schnoor said. A bushel of corn—about 54 pounds—can be used to produce 31.5 pounds of starch or food, 33 pounds of sweetener, or 2.8 gallons of ethanol plus 13.5 pounds of gluten feed plus 2.6 pounds of gluten meal plus 1.5 pounds of corn oil. He pointed out that when making ethanol from corn, the byproducts are important for animal feed and that up to one-third of the original feed value of the corn is still available in the byproducts (dry distillers grains) after the ethanol has been produced.
Ethanol production is also a job creator, Schnoor said. A smaller plant that makes 50 million gallons per year of ethanol has about 40 full-time employees. “When you multiply that by hundreds of plants, it starts to make a significant number of jobs.”
Concerning the economics of ethanol production, he noted that the tax credit for blenders of corn ethanol expired in 2012, but biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol still enjoy a substantial tax credit of $1.01 per gallon.
In 2012 growers planted a record 94 million acres of corn in the United States, and 40 percent of that was used in ethanol production—