May 30, 2007

GM emphasizes development of non-food based ethanol fuel

Lake Odessa, Michigan – GM representatives gathered with industry experts and media at the U.S. Bio Woodbury Ethanol Plant to highlight the need for achieving greater energy diversity and to discuss the vital role that both cellulosic and corn-based ethanol can play in transitioning away from oil.

A major step toward diversifying U.S. transportation energy supply is as close as the unused corn stalks from this season’s harvest, the waste from lumber mills, native prairie grasses, or even your lawn clippings, said the company. These and other non-food plant materials can be cost-effectively turned into cellulosic ethanol, which can greatly reduce oil consumption and global warming at the same time.

Cellulosic ethanol is non-food based and can be made from a variety of biomass sources, including waste from urban, agricultural and forestry resources. But unlike corn ethanol, the cellulose in the products used to make cellulosic ethanol must be pre-treated and then broken down into sugars before they can be fermented, a step called cellulosis.

Cellulosic ethanol – combined with the billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol already produced today – could potentially replace up to 30 percent of this nation’s demand for energy by the year 2030, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Based on projections from biomass researchers, including Bruce E. Dale, director of the Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory at Michigan State University, cellulosic ethanol could be produced for US$1.30 a gallon in the near future and around US$1 a gallon by 2020. Both grain-based ethanol and biomass ethanol reduce greenhouse gas emissions — 29 percent for ethanol and 86 percent for cellulosic ethanol, according to Argonne National Labs.

Stephens said that based on U.S. Department of Energy projections, the U.S. could produce 90 billion gallons of corn and cellulosic ethanol a year by 2030. This represents 60 billion adjusted energy gallons of fuel. A GM/University of Toronto study supports these estimates.

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