U.S. Department of Energy to grant up to $385 million for cellulosic ethanol

The U.S. plans to sink up to $385 million into cellulosic ethanol, doling out grants for six bio-refineries across the nation. The funds, spread over four years, will cover up to 40 percent of a $1.2 billion push expected to result in annual production of more than 120 million gallons. “Ultimately, success in producing inexpensive cellulosic ethanol could be the key to eliminating our nation’s addiction to oil,” said Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. The plants, in Iowa, Kansas, Florida, California, Idaho, and Georgia, will use sources ranging from switchgrass and cornstalks to landfill waste and timber scraps. “Cellulosic ethanol is not five or six years away,” says the CEO of grantee Alico. “It is almost today.” And as the U.S. gropes for the energy-independence grail, says energy consultant Lawrence J. Goldstein, leaders “are throwing money where they ought to be throwing it, because they know they can’t get within shouting distance of their goal without a major, quick breakthrough in cellulosic.”