Ethanol Science

The Future of Ethanol

By 2005, the U.S. will have more than 80 ethanol plants on line. The ethanol industry has not taken its eye off its goal to add value to agriculture and economic viability to rural communities. Researchers in the industry continue to work on better raw materials and processes, investigate new feedstocks and envision new biorefinery concepts that incorporate multiple feedstocks and multiple products in one plant.

When Governor Davis announced in 1999 that California would phase out the use of MTBE in California's 14 billion gallon per year gasoline market, it ignited the explosive growth of the fuel ethanol industry that continues today. From 2001 to 2002 fuel ethanol production in the U.S. grew 21%, and in the following year production grew another 22%. In two years the industry grew from 1.9 billion gallons of production to 2.8 billion gallons. We expect annual production to grow another 14% in 2004 to more than 3.2 billion gallons. Past and projected future growth of the fuel ethanol industry is shown in the following graph.


There are several factors that will continue to drive the growth of the fuel ethanol industry for the next decade as shown in the above chart:

  • Phase out of MTBE 
  • Ethanol price relative to crude oil (or gasoline)
  • Clean octane
  • Oxygenate for RFG program
    Gasoline extender (refinery capacity)
    Local economic development

Source: BBI International

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