Steven Sterin, the president of the advanced fuels division at Dallas-based chemicals company Celanese, came up with an innovative way to fuel America. According to Forbes, he wants to make ethanol by “tearing apart and recombining the hydrocarbons found in plentiful natural gas or coal.”
Unfortunately for Sterin, that’s not possible right now because the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard law mandates that gasoline refiners blend so much plant-based or renewable ethanol into the gas supply that prevents Celanese from developing his fossil-fuel-based ethanols.
Currently, ethanol is the end product of corn. And when Congress required in 2005 that ethanol be added to gasoline, corn prices skyrocketed. So Sterin wants to push for what he thinks is a better alternative.
The corn-dominated ethanol lobby is conflicted about making ethanol out of fossil fuels. On one hand, corn growers don’t want competition from cheap gas. On the other, it’s in the national interest to cut oil imports. “We’re supportive of expanding all renewables and all alternative fuels,” says Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association. Says Joe Cannon, president of the Fuel Freedom Foundation: “We need every option. There are 2 billion people moving from bicycles to mopeds to cars, and that’s just in India and China.”
Thirteen congressmen led by Pete Olson, whose district around Houston, Tex. encompasses dozens of chemical plants, including Celanese, have introduced a bill to add natgas-derived fuels to the RFS. Any change would face attack from the greens but is supported by animal farmers who want cheaper feed corn. “We would prefer not to have the RFS at all,” says a spokeswoman for Olson, “but this is a step in the right direction.”