Ethanol to outweigh US imports of Saudi Arabia oil by 2019 – GM

16 February 2010 05:01  [Source: ICIS news]

ORLANDO (ICIS news)--Ethanol was the best long-term solution for US energy independence, automobile maker General Motors (GM) said on Monday, predicting that by 2019 the biofuel will match US crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia on an energy basis.

GM said it expects the US to produce enough ethanol within the next 20 years to replace as much as a third of the country's liquid fuel supply.

“US ethanol production could potentially reach 90bn gal/year by 2030,” Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman for global product operations, told a news conference ahead of the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Development of large-scale cellulosic ethanol production would be fundamental for the US to reduce its dependence on oil imports, GM officials said.

But the officials also supported the ongoing corn-based structure of the US ethanol industry, dismissing complaints that the use of corn can hurt food supply and food prices.

The US produced around 12bn gal of ethanol in 2009, virtually all of it from corn.

Coleman Jones, GM's biofuels implementation manager, said corn is used around the world mostly as a protein source for animal feed, and pointed out that the protein component is not used in the production of ethanol.

Coleman also said US corn production will increase significantly in the coming years as technology delivers further improvements in crop yields, offsetting demand for the grain as a feedstock for fuel.

US corn production could nearly double in the future as a result of research and yield improvements, he predicted.

The US delivered a record corn crop of around 13bn bushels in 2010 with a corn yield of 165 bushels/acre.

Some studies indicate corn yields could potentially jump to 300 bushels/acre in coming years, the GM officials said.

The car maker said it was investing some $100m (€73m) a year to add flex-fuel capability to its vehicles, and reaffirmed its commitment to make more than half of its vehicle production ethanol-capable by 2012.

The National Ethanol Conference is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and formally begins on Tuesday.

($1 = €0.73)

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By: William Lemos
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