For many years we’ve been hearing that cellulosic ethanol is “just five years away”. Now, with three cellulosic plants preparing to come online in 2014, it appears cellulosic ethanol has finally arrived.
However, according to John Hay, a University of Nebraska Extension educator specializing in energy and biofuels, there are still some questions about the economic viability of cellulosic ethanol production.
“The question is, can it be done cheap enough—and that really depends on a lot of things,” Hay says. “Can they get the feedstock at the price they want? Is the price of oil where they can raise it and make it cheap enough?”
Hay says the boom in U.S. oil production has clouded the outlook for alternative fuels.
“The reality is that through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the oil industry in the United States has really gone on an upswing—and that has kept the prices relatively low,” he says, “and that’s good, maybe, for us as consumers—but maybe not as good for that bioenergy market to climb very fast.
“So I think it’s going to be a very slow incline into some alternative fuels.”
Hay made those comments in an interview with Brownfield at a Switchgrass Bioenergy Feedstock field day near Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.