Vinod Khosla’s Range Fuels has been given the green light from the state of Georgia to build the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. The Colorado company founded by the Silicon Valley venture capitalist will begin construction of the plant this summer in Treutlen County, Georgia, with production set to start in 2008. Unlike corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety of biomass matter – from wood chips to grass to cornstalks. It’s the great green hope for ramping up production of ethanol while avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural impact of corn ethanol. The catch is the cellulosic approach has been expensive and experimental. Range, however, says it has developed a process that reduces production costs and can make the fuel from wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, and cornstalks, hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust and paper pulp. The first phase of the project, which will make ethanol from "wood waste" from Georgia forests, will produce 20 million gallons of ethanol annually, ramping up to 100 million gallons a year, according to Range.
Meanwhile, late last week E3 BioFuels flipped the switch on what it calls the first "closed loop" corn ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska. The plant uses biogas produced from cow manure to power the boilers that distill the ethanol. Left over "wet grain" from the ethanol production process is feed to the cattle, which then convert it into…you get the picture.