CHINA said yesterday that it would extend the use of ethanol fuel nationwide as it seeks to intensify anti-pollution efforts while finding a use for the nation’s huge surplus of corn.
The plan will support the use of ethanol fuel throughout the country by 2020 while strengthening the capacity of the biofuel industry, according to a document released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration.
At present, biofuels account for just 1 percent of the total petroleum products consumed in China, the world’s largest automobile market.
The country “will have to work to produce large-scale cellulose-based ethanol and to improve its technologies” in order to meet international standards, the document said.
A senior administration official said: “The plan is unveiled as the country is pushing the use of biofuel, which is renewable, applicable, tech-savvy and environmentally friendly. It is an ideal alternative to fossil fuel.”
The goal is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas and combat the acrid smog that is polluting many cities, while “making better use of expired or overcapacity” agricultural production.
Ethanol can be made from both sucrose (beet or sugarcane) and corn, of which China has an estimated surplus of more than 200 million tons.
To keep prices stable, state bodies have traditionally bought most of the crops in north and northeast China.
While China has cut its corn production forecasts for this year and the next, authorities are grappling with huge national surpluses which steadily deteriorate over time.
China is also eyeing other ingredients for biofuel in the long term.
“China produces more than 400 million tons of straw and forestry waste each year,” the energy administration said, noting that 30 percent of this could be used to produce 20 million tons of biofuel.
Ethanol fuel, known as E10, contains 10 percent of ethanol. It is commonly used worldwide since it is believed to cut carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions and help ease the energy supply bottleneck.
China aims to build an advanced liquid biofuel system and put into operation a demonstration facility that will be able to produce 50,000 tons of ethanol derived from cellulose a year by 2020.
China launched corn-to-ethanol pilot programs in 2004 as part of efforts to cut emissions and advance new energy.
The government banned the use of grain for ethanol production in 2007 to ensure sufficient food supplies, and biofuel manufacturers have since turned to sweet potatoes, sorghum and straw instead.
The country later lifted the ban in a number of provinces, including Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces in the northeast, and Hebei provinces in the north, Anhui, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces in the east, the central provinces of Hubei and Henan, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the south.
Guangxi is the first Chinese locality to commercially produce ethanol with cassava instead of grain.
More than 40 countries and regions consume about 600 million tons of ethanol fuel every year, accounting for around 60 percent of the world’s annual gasoline use.
China is the world’s third-largest bioethanol producer and uses nearly 2.6 million tons a year, but it remains far behind the United States and Brazil. It aims to raise production to 4 million tons a year by 2020.
Gasoline blended with ethanol makes up a fifth of China’s annual gasoline consumption.
On Sunday, China said it was working toward a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. The ethanol plan echoes moves to phase out production and sales of fossil fuel cars to reduce pollution and save fossil fuel.