The National Corn Growers Association participated in a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C., last week aimed at setting initiatives to reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil by increasing the usage of renewable fuels like ethanol in the transportation sector.

The workshop was hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Biomass Program as part of the department's effort to achieve the goals set forth in the administration's Biofuels Initiative.

"This is a huge step forward by the Department of Energy in acquiring participation of a diverse group of stakeholders beyond the traditional agriculture and renewable fuel representatives," said Nathan Fields, NCGA director of research and business development, noting petrochemical companies and major automakers attended. "This workshop gave everyone the chance to give their input and engage in the development of real options in order to advance the renewable fuels industry.

"It was important to have corn growers' views represented. Corn is-and will be-the major raw material supplier to the ethanol industry for many years to come."

The initiative focused heavily on how to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012 and to reduce the nation's dependence on oil imports by 75 percent by 2025. The initiative aims to achieve a volumetric goal of 60 billion gallons of biofuels (or 30 percent of 2004 gasoline consumption equivalent) by 2030.

The agenda included discussions on collaborative planning efforts and breakout sessions, including wet and dry mill corn processing, agricultural residues, infrastructure needs and identification of barriers to biofuel expansion by 2012 in order for the United States to meet the 30x30 biofuels goal.

Fields noted that while the final mix of feedstocks to produce 60 billion gallons of biofuels is still being developed, the DOE is working on models showing how corn can produce a significant portion of the 60-billion gallon target by 2030.

"With production increases and conservative stover utilization, some DOE models suggest corn can be the supplier of up to two-thirds of the biofuels market by 2030," Fields said. "The market will dictate what the optimal feedstock will be, but with corn grain the foundation of the industry and stover utilization having a doubling potential, corn maintains its position as the major player in the ethanol industry."