New type of ethanol factory doesn't want your corn

Biofuel maker Verenium will break ground on its first industrial-grade cellulosic ethanol plant later this year in Florida. Most ethanol is made from high-sugar plants, like corn, but cellulosic ethanol is made from plant cellulose, the kind of vegetation we generally don't eat. That could mean a lot of cheaper ethanol, sooner — made from stuff we'd normally discard anyway.

This facility solves the biggest issue of commercial-scale ethanol production today — the competition with the food industry over the corn and other cash crops used for feedstock that drives up the prices for both food and fuel. To date, there have been plenty of cellulosic ethanol test plants, but Verenium lept ahead of the pack by being first to be able to scale their test plant up into commercially viable levels of production.

The plant will crank out 36 million gallons of ethanol a year at its peak — to put that in perspective, we burn about 460 million gallons of gasoline equivalents every day in the U.S.