While advanced biofuels are still thought of as the next generation of renewable fuels, corn-based ethanol still makes up most of the nation’s fuel supply.
An agriculture.com article says, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint for America’s vehicles, bio-based ethanol was supposed to provide jobs to rural communities and give farmers new revenue sources. Ten years’ worth of federal incentives were supposed to encourage investment in cellulosic technologies, but just three plants have been built in the Midwest since 2014. Cellulosic ethanol is much harder to manufacture than grain ethanol because it uses the inedible parts of plants, making it harder for machines to process. Cellulosic companies also faced challenges like finding a steady supply, fluctuating markets, and stalled policy decisions. Of the three major plants in the Midwest, the one in Kansas went up for sale in 2016. DuPont announced in November that it’s looking for a buyer to take over its plant in Nevada, Iowa. That just leaves Project Liberty in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
The industry also wasn’t helped by the Environmental Protection Agency, which lowered 2018 the cellulosic ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuels Standard but not by as much as it initially proposed.