Info
Texas, USA | Published on: May 15, 2013
Social media pitch
AmeraTex Energy | Bill would let natural gas-based ethanol qualify as renewable. #NaturalGas http://pr.co/p/000zma
Summary
The Sugar Land Republican is sponsoring legislation that would allow ethanol produced from natural gas to compete with corn-based ethanol under the federal renewable fuels standard, an 8-year-old mandate that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of alternatives into petroleum-based fuels.
Details

Article syndication done by AmeraTex Energy Inc.

To the federal government, ethanol only counts as a conventional biofuel if it is produced from switchgrass, cornstarch or other easily replenished materials.

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson wants to change that.

The Sugar Land Republican is sponsoring legislation that would allow ethanol produced from natural gas to compete with corn-based ethanol under the federal renewable fuels standard, an 8-year-old mandate that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of alternatives into petroleum-based fuels. Technically, the measure would create a new "domestic alternative fuel" category in the renewable fuel standard, under which the natural gas-based product would qualify.

Olson's bill responds to commercial interest in producing ethanol from natural gas, amid questions about the ability to efficiently and cost effectively to transform plant material into ethanol that can be blended into fuel.

A number of companies have honed techniques to convert natural gas into ethanol, including Dallas-based Celanese Corp., Warrenville, Ill.-based Coskata and Hillsborough, N.J.-based Primus Green.

Olson said his idea makes sense, since one of the major aims of the renewable fuel standard was to reduce the United States' need for imported oil. The ethanol made from natural gas is chemically identical to corn-based ethanol, has the same low emissions when it is burned in automobiles and would be produced from domestic supplies.

'Higher food costs'

Olson said the renewable fuel standard's "singular focus on corn ethanol has translated into higher feed costs for livestock producers and higher food costs for working families."

Like many Republican colleagues, Olson supports a full repeal of the renewable fuel standard but said that in the meantime, the government should "provide greater participation and competition under the program."

He argues that including natural gas-based ethanol as a renewable fuel for the purposes of the federal standard would guarantee a market and spur investment.

"Expanding the sources for ethanol will only benefit all Americans," Olson said in a statement.

But critics say giving natural gas-based ethanol an advantage short- circuits the intent of the renewable fuel standard: to support renewable non-fossil-fuel alternatives. Natural gas is a fossil fuel and - booming production notwithstanding - it is technically of finite supply.

Fossil fuels

The Renewable Fuels Association has insisted that any bid to add fossil fuels to the standard is misguided. Fossil fuels, the trade group insists, have no place in a renewable mandate.

And some critics charge that making natural gas into ethanol could produce similar greenhouse gas emissions as fuels refined from crude.

Celanese says it can create natural gas-based ethanol at a cost of $1.50 per gallon, by putting hydrocarbons through a thermochemical process that yields ethanol.

Coskata, meanwhile, has decided to concentrate on natural gas-based ethanol instead of its original plan to focus on cellulosic ethanol made from wood chips, plant materials and other sources.

For Celanese, Coskata and Primus, a big advantage is the relatively low price of natural gas.

Olson's bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and the pair have lined up more than a dozen other co-sponsors including Texas Republicans Ted Poe of Humble, Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Bill Flores of Bryan and Joe Barton of Ennis, and Democrats Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Gene Green of Houston and Filemon Vela of Brownsville.

Article syndication done by AmeraTex Energy Inc.