New Poet-DSM Biofuels Plant a Sign of Things to Come

Statement by Jeremy Martin, senior scientist, Clean Vehicles Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 3, 2014 Updated Sep 8, 2014

WASHINGTON (September 3, 2014)—Poet-DSM’s opening of a cellulosic biofuel production facility in Emmetsburg, Iowa marks the beginning of commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel production, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The plant is the first of three scheduled to come on line this year, including DuPont’s in Iowa and Abengoa’s in Kansas. 

In 2008, Congress set a course to move U.S. biofuel production beyond corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel to advanced biofuels made from non-food resources. These commercial facilities are the result of enormous engineering progress and substantial financial investment in a clean transportation future, according to Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. Martin says 2014 is poised to be the first year in which U.S. cellulosic biofuel production exceeds a million gallons.

Below is a statement from Martin:

“The Poet-DSM facility is an important milestone on the road to clean transportation. With efficient vehicles and clean fuels like cellulosic biofuel we can cut our projected oil use in half in 20 years. 

“Moving from pilot scale to commercial scale means cleaner fuels are moving into the fast lane.  We still have a ways to go until cellulosic biofuel is as abundant as corn ethanol, but with commercial production underway, we are making progress much faster.  The milestones – more than a million gallons in 2014 and more than 10 million in 2015 – should start to fly by more quickly.

“The amazing thing about cellulosic technology is that it allows biofuel production to expand without using any additional food crops.  According to our analysis, Iowa has potential to expand biofuel production by a billion gallons – more than 25 percent – without using an additional kernel of corn.” 

In July, UCS convened clean transportation experts to tour the Poet-DSM facility, see firsthand the developments in commercializing cellulosic biofuels, and learn what it takes to turn corn stover, perennial grasses and other biomass feedstocks into clean, sustainable fuel. According to a recent UCS report, several states can produce more clean fuel and energy from agricultural residues and manure. More broadly, UCS has found that the country can cut its projected oil use in half in the next twenty years, with efficient vehicles and clean fuels.