Ethanol’s Days of Promise and Prosperity Are Fading – NYTimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/us/17ethanol.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0&pagewanted=print

Days of Promise Fade for Ethanol

“Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants have stopped production over the past year, in part because the drought that has ravaged much of the nation’s crops pushed commodity prices so high that ethanol has become too expensive to produce. …

“Thousands of barrels of ethanol now sit in storage because there is not enough gasoline in the market to blend it with — and blends calling for a higher percentage of ethanol have yet to catch on widely in the marketplace. Advanced biofuels from waste like corn stalks and wood chips have also yet to reach commercial-level production as some had predicted they would by now. …

“Congress set out to create an ethanol industry that would produce enough to make up 10 percent of every gallon of gas pumped into a car, but the lawmakers assumed that demand for fuel would grow. Instead, it has shrunk to 8.7 million barrels a day from 9.7 million in 2007, said Larry Goldstein, an economist and a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation. And with corporate average fuel economy rules now in place to double the number of miles that the average car gets per gallon by 2025, “you know we’re on a trend,” he added.

“As the gasoline market got smaller, so did the amount of ethanol it could absorb, because most service stations are set up to sell fuel with an ethanol content of only up to 10 percent. Owners’ manuals of most cars call for fuel blends of no more than 10 percent ethanol. The industry calls this the “blend wall,” and it has won Environmental Protection Agency approval for some cars to run on blends of up to 15 percent, but thus far that fuel has not caught on with consumers.”

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