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Italy Will Be First Country to Require Cars, Trucks Use Biofuels from Ag Waste

Image Credit: BBB News/Fabrizio Giraldi
Image Credit: BBB News/Fabrizio Giraldi

Italy will soon become the first country in Europe to legally require “advanced biofuels” in cars and trucks, the BBC reports. The new fuels are made from agricultural waste such as straw rather than crops, and reduce the amount of land taken out of food production.

The first commercial scale plant making fuel from straw opened in Italy last year. Beginning in 2018, all fuel suppliers in the country will have to include 0.6 percent advanced biofuel in gasoline and diesel. This will rise to 1 percent by 2022.

Last year, a commercial scale advanced biofuels plant was opened in Crescentino near Turin, with the objective of producing 75 million liters of bioethanol every year from straw and arundo donax, an energy crop grown on marginal land. The Italians have announced plans to open three additional plants in the south of the country.

Novozymes, one of the companies involved in the Crescentino initiative, applauded the government’s decision to make it legally binding on fuel suppliers to include advanced biofuels in their gasoline and diesel. The company has been developing technology to boost biofuel productivity.

A Renewable Energy Directive, adopted by the European Union in 2009, required that 10 percent of energy used within the transport sector came from renewable sources. However, concerns that land was being converted from food production to grow crops for biofuels led to the EU reducing this to 5.75 percent. The European Parliament also voted to require a 2.5 percent target for advanced biofuels by 2020. European Council of energy ministers reduced this to a non-binding goal of 0.5 percent.

In the United States, the EPA has reduced the level of advanced biofuels it requires for use in transport amid concerns that it was increasing imports of fuel made from Brazilian sugarcane. However, several new second generation biofuels plants have recently opened.

The first commercial-scale biofuel plant in the United States opened in September, which will eventually produce more than 25 million gallons of fuel a year from corn waste. Project LIBERTY converts baled corn cobs, leaves, husk and stalk into renewable fuel. The $272 million plant, located in Emmetsburg, Iowa, has officially started up, processing its first batch of biomass into cellulosic ethanol and is moving forward toward continuous operation. At full capacity, the facility will convert 770 tons of biomass per day to produce ethanol at a rate of 20 million gallons per year, later ramping up to 25 million gallons per year.

Source: Mike Hower