Hawaii to get $1M for ethanol test project
Hawaii is set to receive $1 million in federal funds for an ethanol demonstration project, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's office has announced.
The funds will go toward research and development of sugar-based ethanol production in Hawaii.
Companies that plan to open ethanol plants here say they are working with the agriculture industry to develop the crops that would serve as the feed stock for the fuel.
"It is vital that we continue to find new ways of securing our energy through local resources," Akaka said in a news release yesterday.
Ethanol is an alternative fuel that Hawaii and other regions hope can help reduce dependence on imported oil. A clear liquid similar to alcohol, ethanol is made from crops such as corn, wheat and sugar. When mixed with gasoline, it creates a cleaner-burning automotive fuel.
Since April, state law has required that 85 percent of all gasoline sold in Hawaii contain 10 percent ethanol. Forty-one other states also have ethanol blending requirements.
In Hawaii, the mandate was seen as a way to help lessen the state's dependence on oil and revive the local sugar industry.
But production has been slow to come online. Right now there is no ethanol being produced in Hawaii, and the first facilities are not expected to begin making it until the second quarter of next year, forcing refineries to import about 100,000 barrels of the fuel each month.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to release a long-awaited report this month on the viability of sugar-based ethanol.
Critics say ethanol and other biofuels threaten our nation's food security, aren't efficient enough to compete with traditional energy sources and will have little, if any, ability to displace oil consumption.
Most of the ethanol produced and used in the United States today is made from corn. Ethanol prices have reached an all-time highs in recent weeks as demand for the renewable fuel has surged.
Some argue that blending mandates, coupled with high prices for ethanol, have led to higher prices at the pump.
Tom Tanton, a senior fellow at the Houston-based Institute for Energy Research, says blending mandates are contributing to supply problems.
"The causes of higher energy costs have their roots in simple economics: Increasing global demand for oil and gas -- without increasing supply -- equals higher prices," Tanton said in a news release. "The switch-over to ethanol gas additives has created an additional set of demands that are outpacing supply, and driving up prices to the extent of 20 to 80 cents more per gallon."