Biofuels in the USA

Since 1850, corn and beets crops have been used as raw materials for ethanol pro­duction in the USA. Ethanol was a popular fuel for lighting during the first half of the nineteenth century, and in 1860, 13,157,894 gallons of ethanol were burned in the USA for lighting (Herrick 1907). The ethanol tax initially imposed a fee of 20 cents per gallon in 1862 and reached $2.08 per gallon in 1864 (Herrick 1907).

Between 1919 and 1933, ethanol was forbidden to increase the demand for products such as gasoline. During World War II, the production of ethanol rose to 600 million gallons per year. The US interest in ethanol fuel has grown since the oil crisis of the 1970s. The USA started using 10 % ethanol blended into gasoline at the end of 1970. The Energy Tax Act of 1978 (ETA) officially defined 10 % as the required volume of a non-fossil-fuel blend with gasoline (Solomon et al. 2007).

In addition, the demand for ethanol produced from corn has increased since the main product that was added to gasoline at one time (namely, methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE) was revealed as a contaminant of groundwater. The use of MTBE in gasoline was banned in almost 20 American states in 2006, and since then, etha­nol has become its main substitute (RFA 2011).

Today, the sharp growth in the production and consumption of ethanol is asso­ciated with federal legislation that was created to reduce oil consumption, increase energy security, and reduce CO2 emissions in the country. From 1983 to 2005, the production costs for making ethanol from corn decreased by 65 %, and further­more, the industrial processing costs decreased by 45 % (Hettinga et al. 2009).

The use of ethanol has been expected to expand since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a production target of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012. The Security Act of 2007 raised this target and required the annual use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels until 2022 (RFA 2011). With these incentives and the maturity of the industry, the USA is currently the world’s largest producer of ethanol and it represents approximately 60 % of the world’s production.

In addition to ethanol, biodiesel is currently used as a biofuel in the USA. The two major feedstocks for biodiesel production are soybeans and rapeseeds. The fed­eral government plays a key role in determining the course and especially the scale of biodiesel development, and it gives incentives such as tax exemptions, price con­trols, production targets, and direct subsidies (Lin et al. 2011).

Advances to stimulate biodiesel were proposed by Congress, and President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The scale of production has grown significantly, and furthermore, plants are now distributed in various parts of the country. Today, the total production of biodiesel is nearly 1 billion of gallons.

In some parts of the USA and Canada, camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz) is emerging as an oilseed feedstock for biodiesel that is intended for use in avia­tion fuel, as it can be grown on wheat fields that would otherwise be left fal­low without harming the soil. In fact, growing camelina in these fields usually improves their fertility. The USA has announced plans for using algae as a feed­stock for future generations of biofuels and is promoting the biofuel industry by providing grants and sponsorships.

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