>>>"A few companies have opened pilot plants to make cellulosic but no commercial amounts of the fuel are being made. The industry risks failing the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard, which requires the blending of 100 million gallons of cellulosic into the country's gasoline pool next year."<<<
This is an understatment, currently they are only producing 3M gallons a year.
Hey, I thought you were an ecologist, how do you feel about all the sulphuric acid needed for cellulosic ethanol?
Breakdown of hemicellulose to smaller fibers requires a chemical process involving enzymes and other techniques. Not sure what your concern is. The paper manufacturing industry has long used a similar process called "Kraft", which since the 70's has been largely emissions free.
Other ecological issues you have brought up in the past such as the kill zone in the gulf, existed long before corn was ever used for ethanol. In fact, there are well established research programs and Ag exstension efforts underway to promote best practices to mitigate nitrogen runoff.
These programs include the planting of buffer strips along drainage paths. Coincidentilly, there is currently a pilot program at Iowa State, along these lines, for planting switchgrass and fast growing trees managed in coppice plantations for biomass production, that will aid in the switchover to cellulosic ethanol. Pretty cool huh?
Coppice is great because it leaves the roots intact, allowing the trees to spring back from stump sprouts and roots, therefore boosting production, while retaining the buffer zone, with little disturbance to the land and thus minimal impact to streams. And yes, I am an ecologist who just happened to do a major bit of research on coppice for biomass production during the energy crisis of the seventies, under a DOE grant.
Spend a little time researching these issues, and read a journal once in awhile, and you will be able to speak more intelligently about the issues.
>>>Other ecological issues you have brought up in the past such as the kill zone in the gulf, existed long before corn was ever used for ethanol.<<<
Of course, it is associated with all factory farming. However, even you would have to admit that ethanol production increases the amount of corn farming so it is common sense to say that it is making the Gulf Dead zone worse.
Currently, 20% to 25% of the corn crop is used for ethanol so it's obvious that the it is increasing the gulf dead zone by a commensurate amount.
Currently, oil sands are producing 1M barrels of oil a day, so sure, in a total sense it does have a bigger impact because they are so much more successfull. One day of oil sands production is greater than 1 year of celluosic ethanol.
However, you don't know how much pollution is generated per unit of gasoline produced. That would be a fair comparison.
So far we only have 500 dead ducks for oil sands over 30 years of operation, not bad.