WASHINGTON – Compiling enough cellulosic ethanol to meet federal targets remains a challenge, the Environmental Protection Agency said again last week in proposing quotas for biofuels usage in 2012. On the other hand, the quota for corn-based ethanol will increase as scheduled to 13.2 billion gallons, relayed the National Chicken Council’s June 24 edition of the Washington Report.

EPA slashed the proposed quota for cellulosic biofuel from the 500 million gallons specified in federal law to a number somewhere in the range of 3.45 million to 12.9 million gallons. The specific number will be announced no later than November. The quota for 2011 was similarly set far below the target set by Congress. The federal law setting the Renewable Fuels Standard allows the agency to adjust some targets based on availability of the fuel, NCC explained.

The quota for corn-based ethanol is fixed in the law at 13.2 billion gallons, an increase of 600 million gallons in 2011. At a rate of 2.8 gallons of ethanol from a bushel of corn, according to the American Council for Ethanol, production of that much ethanol will require about 4.7 billion bushels of corn.

Only nine facilities in the entire country might be able to produce commercial qualities of cellulosic-based ethanol in 2012, EPA said. Some of these have not even been built yet, the agency added. Feedstocks include corn cobs, municipal solid waste, and bagasse (fibrous material from sorghum stalks or sugarcane). Altogether, the maximum production will be 12.9 million gallons, according to EPA.

“Currently there are very few, if any, facilities consistently producing cellulosic biofuel for commercial sale,” the agency said. “Announcements of new projects and project funding, changes in project plans, project delays, and cancellations occur frequently. Biofuel producers face not only the challenge of the scale up of innovative, first-of-a-kind technology, but also the challenge of securing funding in a difficult economy.”

Reaching targets for other sources of biofuels is more likely, EPA revealed. The quota for biomass-based diesel was left at 1 billion gallons as specified in the RFS. Additional amounts of biofuel could be derived from imported sugarcane ethanol, additional biodiesel, or renewable diesel, the agency said.