Chasing Ghosts: The Search for Cellulosic Ethanol in America

June 21, 2013

The search for Jimmy Hoffa has again ended in more questions than answers. The same can be said for the search for cellulosic ethanol—an advanced biofuel that refiners are required by law to buy or purchase credits for, despite the fact that this “phantom fuel” doesn’t exist for commercial purchase.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), passed into law in 2007, mandates the increasing consumption of large volumes of cellulosic ethanol and other forms of biofuel. And in order to match reality with expectation, the EPA was granted the power to revise mandated levels as demand and production dictate.

Yet, even though virtually no cellulosic ethanol was produced in America over the past three years due to a lack of demand and infrastructure, the EPA has refused to adjust required volumes. This year, EPA is proposing that refiners to buy 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol despite every indication that little, if any, will be produced. Since cellulosic production isn’t happening, refiners must buy credits to comply with the EPA’s rule—essentially paying an additional tax for a product that doesn't exist, increasing the cost to produce fuel.

This ghost chase affects Americans across the board as costs are passed down to consumers and taxpayers are forced to support a negligent biofuels policy. It’s high time this search is called off and we demand change to our nation’s muddled biofuels policy before we spend the next 30 plus years wondering what happened to our paychecks.