Exciting news on the cellulosic ethanol front. The promise of next-generation biofuels is moving from the lab to the factory.
BP has announced a joint venture with Verenium to make cellulosic ethanol from grass and other non-edible plants.
Most ethanol in the U.S. is made with corn, which can drive up food prices. Grass and other plant waste is seen as the holy grail for a sustainable source of the alternative fuel, which is typically mixed with regular gasoline to run in vehicles.
The companies are investing up to $300 million to develop and commercialize the advanced fuel and build a production facility in Highlands County, Fla. It will be one of the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants. The companies already operate the largest such plant in the U.S. This one will be 25 times larger than the pilot project.
If only homeowners could get a little one of these operations in the backyard. Mow the lawn. Dump in the clippings. Wait. Take a drive.
Production from the BP-Verenium venture is expected in 2012, putting out about 36 million gallons a year.
The drive here is supported by government policy, namely the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates the use of 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2022. The industry has a long, long way to go, based on current production levels of less than 30 million gallons a year, according to Grist magazine.
More from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).