New York Loves Ethanol

Iogen needs a million tons of straw a year to make cellulosic ethanol. © GETTY IMAGES

It looks like upstate New York will be a launching pad for alternative energy in the U.S. (see “The Holy Grail,” Currents, March/April 2007). Five traditional ethanol plants are underway in the state, and a demonstration cellulosic ethanol plant is being built near Rochester. That 15,000 square-foot cellulosic ethanol facility will convert New York State’s agricultural and forestry resources, including wood chips, paper sludge and switchgrass, to 500,000 gallons a year of biomass ethanol. It will be the first facility of its kind in the U.S., and only the second in the world (the other is in Canada). Mascoma Corporation is leading the project with support from the state government in Albany, including a $14.8 million grant. It received another $39 million from venture capital firms and is hoping to bank on President Bush’s State of the Union pledge to increase U.S. biofuel use from five billion to 35 billion gallons by 2017.

“After decades of research and development around the world, cellulosic ethanol technology has reached a point where we are ready to demonstrate the commercial-scale production of ethanol from biomass,” says Colin South, Mascoma’s president. “We are very excited about the support from New York for our approach, which uses a variety of raw materials….This plant will demonstrate the technologies we expect to rapidly move into commercial application.”

With the new ethanol plants, New York will be poised to meet the increasing demand for biofuels on the east coast. Says the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “When all five plants are online, they will produce nearly 400 million gallons of ethanol annually, an amount equal to roughly eight percent of all U.S. production in 2006.”


Mascoma Corporation, (617) 234-0099