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Showing posts from December, 2014

Cellulosic Ethanol: Will Technical Success Bring Commercial Success?

By Douglas G. Tiffany, U of M Extension Educator, Agricultural Business Management

For the last fifteen years or so, speakers at biofuels conferences would often say that production of cellulosic ethanol would be a commercial reality in just "five more years." Issues cited for the delays ranged from needed enzyme breakthroughs leading to lower costs, the need for tougher fermenting organisms, high capital costs, and then the issues of biomass infrastructure and markets were noted. The "five years away" statement was repeated so often, it was treated as a joke. As a production economist and biofuels researcher, it is interesting and rewarding to see how this once futuristic idea is being developed.

No longer a joke, much needed R & D has occurred following federal loan guarantees that supported plant construction for the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, which is now upon us in the Midwest. Harvest of corn stover and cobs for the 2014-15 processin…