US Energy Secretary now against Bioethanol
- The Obama administration Monday increased the amounts of ethanol and other renewable fuels it wants to see as part of the nation's gasoline supply, but a senior official took aim at the practice.
Responding to a congressional mandate, the Environmental Protection Agency will require that 13.95 billion gallons of transportation fuel comes from renewable sources in 2011, or about 8 percent of domestic gasoline and diesel supplies.
The overall percentage is lower than the 2010 standard, but the total volume is larger than this year's mandate of 12.95 billion gallons. EPA is facing a congressional requirement to raise the volume of renewable fuel each year with the aim of reaching 36 billion gallons in 2022.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Monday said that the future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol, the gasoline additive that historically has received billions of dollars in federal subsidies.
"Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel," Chu said during an event hosted by the National Press Club.
Chu didn't say whether he thought Congress should extend the 45-cent per gallon tax credit for ethanol that's set to expire by the end of the year.
"Corn-based ethanol is a good way of getting it going, realizing that Americans can drive their vehicles from using agriculture based fuels, but we are primarily focused on developing the new technologies that can supersede ethanol made from starches and sugars," he said.
Chu said the Energy Department is much more focused on developing new, commercially-viable transportation technologies biomass and sugar, for example to make gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Those won't require changing the transportation infrastructure, including pipelines.
Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said after the event that Chu wasn't taking aim at biofuels but merely talking about the "next generation" of the industry. "Secretary Chu strongly believes that biofuels can, should and will vastly expand the economic opportunities for America's farmers today and in the future," Mueller said.
EPA's final standard for the amount of cellulosic biofuel derived from feedstock like wood and grasses is lower than the statutory target based on EPA's estimates that there wouldn't be enough to go around.
"By reducing the standard for cellulosic biofuels, EPA is accurately reflecting the difficulties cellulosic biofuel technologies have encountered in obtaining the capital needed to fully commercialize," Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement. However, he added, "EPA should have been and must be careful to keep cellulosic biofuel targets ambitious so as to stimulate the kind of investment these technologies need to finish commercialization."