The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a new research agenda for the development of cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The 200-page scientific roadmap cites recent advances in biotechnology that have made cost-effective production of ethanol from cellulose, or inedible plant fiber, an attainable goal.

The report outlines a detailed research plan for developing new technologies to transform cellulosic ethanol, a renewable, cleaner-burning, and carbon-neutral alternative to gasoline, into an economically viable transportation fuel.

Cellulosic fuel has the potential to be a major source for transportation fuel for America’s energy future,” Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach says. “Low production cost and high efficiency require transformational changes in processing cellulose to ethanol.”

The roadmap responds to the goal recently announced by Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman of displacing 30% of 2004 transportation fuel consumption with biofuels by 2030. This goal was set in response to the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative.

The report identifies the research required for overcoming challenges to the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol to help meet this goal, including maximizing biomass feedstock productivity, developing better processes by which to break down cellulosic materials into sugars, and optimizing the fermentation process to convert sugars to ethanol.

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