The federal government has a mandate for a fuel that doesn’t exist

There’s no better example of such flaws than the federal mandate for cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is made from woody and grassy non-food-source plants. The intent of the mandate is to avoid the food-versus-fuel conflict that conventional ethanol generates while creating a lower-carbon fuel. By 2022, the United States will be required to utilize 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol — that’s 45 percent of the total biofuel mandate and more than 12 percent of current overall total U.S. fuel use.

But the science just isn’t there yet. The breaking down of grass and wood into fuel alcohol is a much more complex process than the fermentation of simple sugars found in sugar cane, corn and other grains currently used to make conventional ethanol. Five years after Congress mandated its use, cellulosic ethanol is still not commercially available. Since 2010, a total of 850 million gallons have been mandated by federal law; over that same time, only 20,000 gallons have been produced.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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