Financing Growth of Cellulosic Ethanol
The U.S. biofuel industry is striving to produce ethanol from cellulosic feedstock sources in an effort to augment its existing corn grain-based ethanol production infrastructure. Technology to commercially produce cellulosic ethanol is rapidly advancing due in large part to the availability of substancial federal research and development funding. At the moment, several firms have pilot scale cellulosic ethanol production facilities under construction and testing. The transition from pilot scale to full commercialization of cellulosic ethanol will be difficult, due in large part financial constraints being imposed both internally and externally on the biofuels industry. This paper provides an overview of the biofuel industry’s current financial setting and describes future challenges it faces in attempting to expand. These challenges are rooted in lack of industry capital, limited availability of performance benchmarks, concerns regarding future prospects of the industry, and general uncertainty in U.S. financial markets. If the U.S. biofuels industry is unable to capitalize and develop this next phase of growth, foreign competitors, primarily Brazil and Mexico, appear well positioned to fill U.S. consumer’s demand for advanced biofuels.
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