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cellulosic ethanol

Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency this month has many in the renewable fuel industry hoping that federal agencies will get on the same page.

That’s because for the last few years, the EPA and the Department of Energy have been at odds, with taxpayer money creating a new biofuel industry that may not have the room to grow outside the lab.

Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step beyond the corn-based ethanol that’s the bulk of the country’s renewable fuel for cars and trucks. These next-generation options were supposed to bring jobs to rural communities and provide farmers with fresh revenue sources, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

Nearly a decade of federal incentives encouraged companies to invest in cellulosic technology, which produces ethanol from crop waste such as stalks, cobs and leaves left on fields after harvest, and at least three plants were built in the Midwest since 2014.

But cellulosic ethanol is harder to make than grain ethanol because it uses the inedible and irregular parts of the plants, meaning it was tough for machines to chew up the wet, heavy material. And companies faced other challenges, such as a steady supply, fluctuating markets and stalled policy decisions.

(File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The federal government's complex set of rules meant to spur a renewable fuels industry has fallen behind one of its main goals: cut greenhouse emissions from gasoline.

More Money, Fewer Grasslands: Corn Ethanol's Impact on Rural America

Jun 2, 2015
Emily Guerin/Inside Energy

Ethanol is one of the most important industries in the Midwest, and it's an industry about to change. The U.S. EPA proposed new targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which dictates the amount of ethanol the oil industry has to blend into our gasoline.

eXtension Farm Energy/Flickr

Biofuels made in the Midwest from corn stover -- the leftovers of harvested corn plants -- might be worse for global warming than gasoline in the short term.