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US Aims for 36 Billion Gallons of Biofuel by 2022

Corn stover, a primary feedstock for ethanol production
Corn stover, the currently unused stalks, leaves, and stems, can be a primary feedstock for ethanol production.
Pat Corkery / National Renewable Energy Laboratory

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has released a report outlining both the current state of renewable transportation fuels efforts in America and a plan to develop regional strategies to increase the production, marketing, and distribution of biofuels. The report provides information on current production and consumption capacities as well as projections to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) mandate to use 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year in America’s fuel supply by 2022.

“The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create jobs, combat global warming, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and lay a strong foundation for a strong 21st Century rural economy, and I am confident that we can meet the threshold of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022,” Vilsack said. “The current ethanol industry provides a solid foundation to build upon and reach the 36 billion gallon goal. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence and this report provides a roadmap to achieve that goal.”

USDA’s report identifies numerous biomass feedstocks to be utilized in developing biofuels and calls for the funding of further investments in research and development of:

  • Feedstocks
  • Sustainable production and management systems
  • Efficient conversion technologies and high-value bioproducts
  • Decision support and policy analysis tools

The report provides data on the significant impact the ethanol industry will have on job creation. It is estimated that as many as 40 direct jobs and additional indirect jobs are created with each 100-million-gallon ethanol facility built. USDA plans to adopt regional strategies that allow the placement of biorefineries in areas of economic distress through the leveraging of regional resources for transportation, labor and feedstocks. The regional strategy provides greater potential for economic benefit.

Corn stover, the currently unused stalks, leaves, and stems, is a primary feedstock for NREL biomass conversion research. The potential volume of stover is very large, it could be collectable at a reasonable cost, and it is located near current ethanol production facilities. Corn stover is treated by breaking down long molecular chains of xylan, a significant component of biomass plant material, into their component xylose sugar molecules.

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