Finally! An article about making ethanol not from corn kernels, which we eat, but from stover, which is the parts we don't eat. In the New York Times yesterday, 7 July 2011, p. B10, Matthew L. Wald writes about the US Energy Department planning to provide a $105million loan to guarantee the expansion of an ethanol factory in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that intends to make motor fuel from stover. Not yet from hemp, which could be sourced from Canadian growers, but I hope that will follow - along, of course, with hemp in the US - thus providing jobs here.
POET is the company building the new plant, which will produce process 700 tons of biomass daily; currently it only handles one ton. Volume is necessary to make ethanol competitive. POET is not the only company to get a loan, the DoA is lending Coskata, a company backed in part by GM, $250million for a plant in Boligee, Ala., that will also convert household waste. Enerkem, based in Montreal, got a loan of $80million for a plant in Pontotoc, Miss., and Ineos Bio got a loan for $75million for a biorefinery in Vero Beach, Fla.
The increase in such ethanol production will give Americans jobs, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and drive the price of a gallon.
POET's pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., has been operating since 2008 and converts a ton of corn stover a day into 75-80 gallons of ethanol, which costs today $2.50-3.00 a gallon, about 50cents higher than that produced from edible corn.
The stover is steamed and treated with acid, and then broken down by enzymes into ordinary sugar and a second sugar with one less carbon atom.
POET operates 27 corn based ethanol plants, and hopes to expand. Other companies in the US include Abengoa, from Spain, and Fulcrum Bioenergy from California.
So finally...some really good news. This means that American farmers will have a market for the corn waste parts, and that the energy they use to power their tractors will not come from oil fields across the globe. Of course, the next step is to make hemp legal and use hemp waste for this after growing it for seed.