China to stop using corn for biofuel in five years

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In an effort to develop biofuel alternatives without harming the general food supply, China is shifting its dependence on corn as the main raw material to sorghum, cassava and sweet potato plants in the next five years.

Cassava and sweet potato are both high-yield plants, and while edible, are not a stable food like corn and won’t create any artificial shortages China Daily reported. The conversion of the four major ethanol production centers, currently outputting a combined one million tons, is not expected to be complicated or costly said Xiong Bilin, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission.

The government recently approved an ethanol production facility in Hebei province, expected to yield 300,000 tons of biofuel a year according to the report. Authorities are also likely to approve another ethanol-making facility in Hubei province with an expected yield of 200,000 tons of ethanol per year.

China is the world’s largest consumer of coal, and number two consumer of oil behind the United States, and its booming economy has tasked its conventional energy networks to their limits. A growing concern for the environmental fallout from the country’s industrial explosion has lead government ministers to seriously begin to look at alternative energy sources.

Gas and diesel sold in nine provinces is already mixed with 10 percent ethanol, reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by 1.3 million tons last year. With a nationwide demand for fuel more than 50 million tons a year however, the amount of ethanol currently produced falls well short of demand.

In an effort to increase production, the government is considering offering a 5 percent tax rebate to ethanol producers, and some financial subsidies both to the producers and suppliers China Daily said. For producers, the subsidy is estimated to be more than RMB1,000 for every ton of their product.