Future of Bioethanol

The future of bioethanol appears to be bright as the need for renewable energy sources to replace dependence on foreign oil is in high demand. With many nations seeking to reduce petroleum imports, boost rural economies, and improve air quality, world ethanol production rose to 13,300 million gallons in 2012. The success of domestic ethanol industries in the USA and Brazil has sparked tremen­dous interest in countries across the globe where nations have created ethanol pro­grams seeking to reduce their dependence on imported energy, provide economic boosts to their rural economies, and improve the environment. As concerns over greenhouse gas emissions grow and supplies of world oil are depleted, Europe and countries like China, India, Australia, and some Southeast Asian nations are rap­idly expanding their biofuels production and use.

A lot of research is being done including turning biomass, materials from plants, into ethanol using special biotechnological methods. Biomass ethanol is the future of ethanol production because biomass feedstocks, like wheat straw or switchgrass, require less fossil fuels to grow, harvest, and produce. It also allows us to utilize more marginal land, such as grasslands, rather than precious acreage devoted to food crops like corn or soybeans. In this way, ethanol production from biomass does not negatively affect the livestock and food industry. The biorefin­ery, analogous to today’s oil refineries, could economically convert lignocellulose to array of fuels and chemicals—not just ethanol by integrating bio — and thermo­chemical conversion. Fundamental research and partnerships with the emerging bioenergy industry are critical for the success.

There has been continuing research on improving the energy output of ethanol and improvements should keep growing. Right now, more and more E85 stations are popping up everywhere and more products from generators to power tools to lawn mowers will all start to use some alternative fuels. There are already engines that can run 100 % pure ethanol and improvements will help migrate these engines

Some excerpts taken from Bajpai (2007). PIRA Technology Report on Bioethanol with kind permission from Smithers PIRA to other areas. Big auto manufacturers like Nissan, Ford, and Honda have all invested money into E85 models as well. Portable generators, standby and emer­gency generators should all start using ethanol as a fuel source as well. Hopefully an alternative fuel like ethanol will be more popular before the big boom in India and China car usage begins to lower environmental pollution.

The emergence of carbon-trading programs in response to many countries’ rati­fication of the Kyoto Protocol will also enhance the affordability of ethanol fuels in comparison to gasoline and diesel. Because ethanol fuels offer a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, users can obtain carbon credits that can be sold to heavy polluters, again reducing ethanol costs while increasing that of fos­sil fuels. The European Union recently developed a carbon-trading program while Japan has conducted several scenario simulations, with hopes to initiate its own nationwide trading system. As Russia considers ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which would bring the agreement into effect, it seems likely that similar carbon­trading schemes will continue to emerge around the world.

A combination of well-reasoned government policies and technological advancements in ethanol fuels could guide a smooth transition away from fossil fuels in the transportation sector. As environmental externalities continue to be incorporated into policy consideration and the fledgling industry emerges, ethanol fuels are likely to become an increasing attractive fuel alternative in the foreseea­ble future. Looking into the future, the ethanol industry envisions a time when eth­anol may be used as a fuel to produce hydrogen for fuel cell vehicle applications.


Bajpai P (2007) Bioethanol. PIRA Technology Report, Smithers PIRA, UK

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