GTFS: Global Trends and Future Scenarios Index

A High Growth Strategy for Ethanol


The United States depends on foreign sources for almost 60 percent of its oil supply, double the level of imports in 1972, the year before the Arab OPEC oil embargo. While enabling inexpensive transportation that has contributed to the nation’s robust  economic growth, this increasing reliance on oil is a costly bargain: high and volatile oil prices threaten our economy, our addiction to oil hamstrings our foreign policy and puts petrodollars in the pockets of terrorists and hostile regimes, and, like all fossil fuels, burning oil contributes to the degradation of our air, water, and climate.

Two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption is for transportation, and two-thirds of that is for cars and light trucks. To reduce our dependence on oil, therefore, aggressive steps must be taken to reduce consumption of gasoline. A program reflecting national commitment and leadership is needed. Toward that end, this report recommends that the U.S. adopt a very ambitious goal of producing 100 billion gallons per year of ethanol by 2025, the equivalent of half of today’s U.S. gasoline consumption or nearly 25 percent of today’s overall U.S. oil use.

Ethanol can be used in existing cars in blends of 10 percent with gasoline. Flexible-fuel vehicles, capable of using either ethanol or gasoline, interchangeably, offer consumers the option of using blends of up to 85 percent ethanol. Conventional sources of ethanol, principally corn starch, are believed capable of producing 15-20 percent of the 100 billion gallons in our goal. The balance would have to come from cellulose, the fibrous material found in all plants, including nonfood crops like switchgrass and wood chips. Advanced technology for converting cellulose to ethanol is currently being commercialized.