| WASHINGTON, April 29
WASHINGTON, April 29 U.S. producers of
cellulosic ethanol on Tuesday said the industry is poised for
rapid growth in 2014 after years of false starts, and that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed usage target is
Lawmakers set ambitious goals for use of cellulosic biofuels
in the 2007 law establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard, which
requires increasing amounts of various types of biofuels to be
blended into the U.S. fuel supply.
Production of cellulosic fuels, made from sources such as
grasses, trees and crop waste, has so far not been anywhere near
the targets set by Congress, forcing EPA to repeatedly slash its
But producers say the industry is finally on the verge of
success, with a handful of plants soon to open.
The EPA's draft proposal for 2014 would require the use of
17 million gallons of the innovative fuel, about 1 percent of
the 1.75 billion gallons originally stipulated by Congress.
"They are being conservative at this point," Doug Berven,
vice president of corporate affairs for biofuel producer POET
LLC, said at a press event.
"They should be a little bit higher. We've got a number of
production facilities coming on line and I do think they are
going to be successful," Berven said, although he declined to
specify an alternative target.
A $250 million cellulosic ethanol plant backed by POET and
Dutch food and chemicals group DSM is set to come on
line by June. The plant could eventually produce 25 million
gallons of fuel a year.
Biofuel officials warned that the EPA's proposed cut to the
overall 2014 biofuel mandate, including conventional corn-based
ethanol, would hurt the entire renewable fuel industry.
"When that policy becomes more uncertain, then the first
thing that happens is investors become weary and begin to look
somewhere else," said Chris Standlee, executive vice president
for global affairs for Abengoa Bioenergy, a Spanish
ethanol company active in the United States.
The draft EPA rule cut the 18.15 billion gallons (68.7
billion liters) of biofuels mandated for use in 2014 down to
15.21 billion gallons. The rule is set to be finalized by June.
Abengoa's cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas will
begin producing fuel within weeks and at full capacity could
produce 25 million gallons a year.
Other projects discussed at Tuesday's event included
Dupont's Nevada, Iowa plant, expected to start operations
in the fourth quarter, and Quad County Corn Processors' Galva,
Iowa plant, scheduled to come online in June.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Grant