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Survey: US cellulosic ethanol goals to fall far short

When it comes to the biofuel of the future, corn ethanol is out, cellulosic ethanol is in, right? Never mind that we haven’t yet seen any significant commercial production of the stuff: it’s go, go, go cellulosic!

Or maybe not. Greentech Media reports this week that a new survey predicts the US will meet less than 29 percent of its cellulosic ethanol production goals by 2010. And, it adds, that shortfall will hit fuel retailers and motorists squarely in the pocketbook.

That’s because the federal government’s Energy Independence and Security Act expected the US to be producing 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2010, and requires fuel retailers to cover any shortfalls through the purchase of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) credits.

Those shortfalls are likely to be significant, according to a study by David Woodburn of ThinkEquity. Woodburn expects US cellulosic ethanol production to be a mere 28.5 million gallons two years from now. In fact, as Greentech Media puts it, “The cellulosic industry as a whole is still largely in the prototype phase, Woodburn’s report notes.”

Look on the bright side, though: corn ethanol went beyond prototype and promptly into bubble mode. Maybe cellulosic ethanol will be spared the same fate?

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