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Biofuels Today

The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and biomass-based diesel. Federal law mandates production of 9 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2008, with production to rise to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Biofuel is usually used as liquid fuel for transportation, mixed with fossil fuel. The United States produces mainly ethanol (most of it currently from corn) and biodiesel.

Ethanol. The US currently produces some 7.2 billion gallons of ethanol per year. Fourteen per cent of the US corn crop is now dedicated to ethanol production, and the USDA says that is expected to rise to 30 per cent in 2009-2010. Most US cars can run on blends of up to 10 percent ethanol, while "flexible-fuel" vehicles can use gasoline and ethanol blends as high as 85 percent ethanol (E85).

Biodiesel. Commercial production of biodiesel in the United States began in the 1990s. The most common feedstocks for biodiesel production in the United States are soybean oil and yellow grease (primarily recycled cooking oil from restaurants). The US Energy Information Administration says that the country produces around 500 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

Cellulosic biofuels. Cellulosic biofuels, made from non-food crops, are under development but not yet in production at industrial scale. Research on cellulosic ethanol is currently underway at several major research institutions in New York, focusing on regionally available feedstocks.

Biofuels in New York State

Currently, New York's renewable fuels infrastructure is based largely on corn-to-ethanol and soybean-to-biodiesel production. Nearly 400 million gallons of corn-based ethanol and agriculture-based biodiesel capacity are currently either in the planning or construction phase, although energy planners see these fuels as a transition to more beneficial biofuels now under development and biofuel producers are already looking beyond grain-based feedstocks.


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