A new ethanol production plant is set to open in Florida this month that promise of a new industry producing fuel out of everything from grass to garbage. The news is a milestone for the renewable fuels and ethanol industries, which have been dogged by bogus, GOP-backed claims that the current methods of making fuel from corn and sugar raises food prices.
Despite contradictory assertions from meat producers that ethanol production isn’t a factor in rising food prices and an ever-widening price gap between ethanol and federally-subsidized gasoline, however, the idea has “stuck” in most people’s minds. INEOS Bio’s new Florida plant hopes to sidestep those concerns and cash in on the growing consumer demand for ethanol at home and abroad.
“One of the frustrations of the policy debate has been the comment that, ‘It’s not here yet, no one is producing yet,’ ” said Peter Williams, chief executive of INEOS Bio, in an interview. Now, he said, “it’s arriving. It’s here.”
The INEOS plant heats organic materials in collected organic waste materials (food, yard clippings, etc.) which produces a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Bacteria feed on the heated waste to ferment the gas and create ethanol. The company says it intends to begin selling ethanol to US fuel companies and plans to release its first shipments later this month. “Everything we’ve done validates our views of the technology,” Williams added. “It reinforces our views of it being a very attractive value proposition as a technology for converting waste materials into bioethanol and energy. Into power, as well.”
“We expect to spend the remainder of 2013 putting the plant through its paces, and demonstrating (that the plant can reach its official capacity of eight million gallons per year)”, said Mr. Williams in the company’s official news release. “All that we have seen so far validates the technical and economic viability of the technology.” While 8,000,000 gallons sounds like a big number to me, the production would still meet only a tiny fraction of the total demand – which seems obvious once you consider that the US consumed nearly 13 billion (BILLION!) gallons of ethanol in 2012.