Group Calls on Congress to Correct Its Mistake on Cellulosic Ethanol Mandate

Date: 4 Dec 2006 | posted in: agriculture, Energy, Press Release | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 4, 2006

Contact: David Morris, 612-276-3456 x208 – dmorris [@]

Group Calls on Congress to Correct Its Mistake on Cellulosic Ethanol Mandate

Minneapolis, MN – In an article published December 4, 2006, in, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that a single sentence added to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 threatens to derail the nation’s efforts to commercialize ethanol made from cellulosic materials. The author, David Morris, ILSR’s Vice President observes that Congress originally inserted a straightforward mandate in the legislation to require 250 million gallons of annual ethanol production from cellulose by 2012. “Congress sent a crystal clear signal to investors that if they build plants, the market will be there,” Morris said.

Unfortunately, the Conference Committee added a sentence not contained in either the House or the Senate version of the legislation that dramatically muddied the waters. The new sentence redefined the term “cellulosic ethanol”. Instead of meaning only ethanol derived from cellulosic materials like straw or corn stalks or grasses or wood, now cellulosic ethanol also means ethanol made in a facility that uses cellulose as a fuel (e.g. waste wood used for heat in the ethanol plant).

As Morris notes, several corn-based ethanol plants already use cellulosic or waste materials as their primary energy source because of the rising price of natural gas. Several more will begin to use cellulosic fuel in the next year. Under the current definition, “it is likely that by 2009 we will have met the 2012 cellulosic ethanol mandate,” Morris ruefully predicts, “without a single gallon of ethanol actually being produced from cellulose.”

Morris, a widely published author on energy policy and a member for six years of a Congressionally created advisory committee on biofuels to the federal Departments of Energy and Agriculture says, “If the mandate becomes meaningless, the only way to achieve the 2012 ethanol goal is if the federal government offers hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to potential investors.”

“Here is a case where Congress got it right the first time,” Morris maintains. “As soon as possible, it should reassert its original intent by eliminating the offending sentence.”

Read the full article, “The Strange Legislative History of the Cellulosic Ethanol Mandate”


About ILSR: The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to advance sustainable, equitable, and community-centered economic development through research and educational activities and technical assistance. More at

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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.