Ethanol from corn currently contributes over 4 billion gallons to the fuel supply every year. Biotechnology Industry Organization President Jim Greenwood said the U.S. could produce more than 70 billion gallons of ethanol or more each year if we use the entire corn plant as well as other crop residues and dedicated energy crops.
"Industrial biotech companies are developing new enzymes that will make current ethanol processes more efficient," Greenwood said in a press statement. "Our industrial biotech companies are working with nature to produce new enzymes called cellulases that can convert this cellulose to sugars that can then be fermented into ethanol."
The statement says that, according to published reports, advances in biotechnology now make production of ethanol from cellulose cost-competitive with gasoline. One recent study shows that biotech processes already being used today could produce ethanol from cellulose for less than $1.60 a gallon compared to refined petroleum currently costing as much as $2.60 per gallon (prior to state and federal taxes).
Improvements to the process through research and development underway coupled with expanded production promise to reduce the cost of ethanol from cellulose to below 90 cents per gallon, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report.