Johanns Sees Viable Cellulosic Ethanol on Horizon

The USDA Secretary says cellulosic ethanol may be financially viable within five years.

Cellulosic ethanol could be a financially viable alternative fuel within five years, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says.

In order to meet President Bush's renewable fuels goals and make large reductions in U.S. foreign oil dependence, ethanol producers will need to use other feedstocks in addition to corn, Johanns says. That notion has been stressed by many others, including the Renewable Fuels Association.

But while some groups have said the need for large amounts of cellulosic ethanol would be unattainable in the near future, Johanns is optimistic that the technology will emerge soon to make cellulosic ethanol financially competitive.

"I really do think it's fair to say that somewhere near the end of this decade • you'll see it as viable," he told state energy officials Tuesday. "Personally, I think we're right on the edge."

Johanns told Down Jones Newswires that he seems to learn about imminent breakthroughs in cellulosic ethanol technology nearly every day.

"But meeting that demand means that we'll have to draw on resources and regions that • traditionally we didn't think about," he says.

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