Ethanol proponents have long claimed that advanced (cellulosic) biofuels — plant-based fuels not made from food sources — will replace corn ethanol, resolving the emissions and hunger problems that corn ethanol causes. And yet, despite government mandates and subsidies, cellulosic biofuels are still not produced at any commercial scale.
In mid-March, KiOR, the most promising cellulosic (advanced) biofuel venture to date, warned investors of impending bankruptcy. Despite taking advantage of $75 million in taxpayer loans and blowing through millions more in private funding, KiOR is nearly $280 million in debt and still asking the EPA for support through the Renewable Fuel Standard.
And while KiOR teeters on the brink of complete failure, producers of deceivingly dirty corn-ethanol are raking in record-high profits. It’s clearer than ever that the U.S. ethanol mandate, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), is a bridge to nowhere except more environmentally destructive corn ethanol.
For all of the money being poured into second-generation biofuels, it is important to remember that we have not once met the mandate for those fuels.