- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
In one of the Presidential State of the Union speeches by George W. Bush in the mid 2000s, he mentioned plans to produce ethanol for fuel purposes by developing cellulosic sources such as switch grass. This would free up the pressures that were growing on the use of food sources to provide ethanol as a gasoline additive. Science believed it could get three times the ethanol production by weight from cellulosic sources.
In 2005, the EPA required refineries to begin adapting ethanol from cellulosic sources. The agency also wanted to phase in increases in ethanol over time. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act mandated that 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol must be produced in 2010, 250 million gallons in 2011 and 500 million by 2012. There were penalties for failing to comply.
However, after seven years of research, an economical and practical production of ethanol from cellulosic materials has not materialized. By the end of 2011, a total of zero gallons were produced for commercial use. The EPA had lowered its mandate in 2011 from 250 million gallons to 6 million gallons. However, since there was none available, the refineries still had to buy credits that totaled $6.78 million for not meeting the mandate. For 2012, the agency reduced the mandate from 500 million gallons to 3.5 million gallons. Unfortunately, there is still no production activity providing product to purchase so the industry will again be required to buy credits. From the industry point of view, this is an added tax for something they have no control over.
So, the question is whether it is fair to establish requirements for production of a product that does not exist? Should an agency set industrial goals before the science has been proven ready for commercialization? Apparently, the EPA and government legislators think that should be the case.