News

Ethanol Production Poised to Surge in US

President Bush has set ambitious goals to reduce the country's dependence on oil, and increase the use of alternative fuels like ethanol. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Miami that experts are now at work to ensure there will be enough new supplies of ethanol to meet the demand.

A recent deal between the United States and Brazil to share ethanol technology marked a key step to expand the American market for alternative fuels. Brazil has built a strong local market for ethanol based on local sugar production, and U.S. officials are hoping to learn some lessons from its success.

Most U.S. ethanol is made from corn. And expanding ethanol production is crucial to President Bush's goal of reducing gasoline consumption in the country by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

"The president's goal has begun to shake up the energy sector," says Brian Dean, head of the Interamerican Ethanol Commission. "That's not just ambitious, it's audacious. We're going to start seeing policy initiatives immediately, I think. And with those policies, consideration needs to be given to our ability to create enough products to meet these very ambitious objectives of 35 billion (gallons). The United States only produced a little over five billion gallons last year, it consumed close to six billion. We're talking about a five-fold increase."

The United States is already looking for additional partners in Latin America to expand the ethanol sector. However, current U.S. policies restrict imports of ethanol and crops from the region, mainly because of pressure by U.S. farmers concerned about losing market share.

Dean says the supply of ethanol from corn and other domestic farm crops will not be enough to meet the Mr. Bush's goals. "But clearly, corn alone, sugar cane alone, or any single feedstock that is agricultural is not going to be able to satisfy the market," he notes. "Clearly the future of ethanol lies in a holistic approach that contemplates agricultural sources, but also the cellulosic technologies. There needs to be an expansive view of ethanol."

Cellulosic ethanol is derived from biomass or plant waste, such as bagasse from sugar cane. Experts are still working to improve the process. But within a few years, it could expand the market place for fuels, says George Philippidis, associate director of the Applied Resarch Center at Florida International University.

"Where depending on what kind of raw material you have in each part of the country or the world, the [processing] plant will feed on that,"  he explains. " For instance, south Florida is very rich in bagasse [sugarcane waste]. Central Florida has a lot of citrus peel."

Philippidis says the technology to make ethanol from such waste products is still a few years away. But he says it will be needed to reduce demand for corn, sugar, and other farm products. Already, the rising interest in ethanol has been blamed for a jump in prices for corn tortillas in Mexico.

Philippidis says we can expect to see more market fluctuations.

"The free market operates that way. We're going to see the ups and downs until we have a demand and supply that are in sync. But that doesn't scare me, it doesn't concern me. That's a natural cycle that the market is going to go through," he says.

Experts say the move away from an oil-based energy market will help reduce pollution and increase energy security. But, as long as demand for ethanol remains high, consumers should expect not to see much savings at the gas pump.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs