Green Car Congress reported earlier this week, ethanol production is up 37% for the first quarter of 2008.

Ethanol plants in the US are now pumping out approximately 21.4 million gallons of corn-based ethanol every day, which has already amounted to 1.9 billion gallons for the year.

The upshot of all this production is progress toward the ethanol quotas required by the new Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandates 15 billion gallons of ethanol be produced from corn in the US by 2015.

But check this out: the Renewable Fuels Association estimates that in 2015 it will take 1/3 of the total US corn harvest to meet those quotas. The estimation is based on producing 3 gallons of ethanol from one bushel of corn, and a total corn harvest of 15 billion bushels.

That’s a big increase in ethanol production: The US produced about 13 billion bushels of corn in 2007, but only produced about 6.4 billion gallons of ethanol. That means that a 16% increase in corn production will have to support a 234% increase in the amount of corn being turned into vehicle fuel.

If the food vs. fuel debate is hot now, just wait until 2015. What seems ludicrous about this situation is that we have better options going online already, like cellulosic ethanol and algae biofuel facilities. Let’s just hope they can start ramping up production before this really gets out of control.

Source: Green Car Congress (Apr. 6, 08) Report: US Ethanol Production up 37% in Q1

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