MIAMI BEACH -- At the NASCAR Green Summit last week, Poet LLC announced plans to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of ethanol production 10 percent this decade and produce 500 million pounds of bio-based products by 2015. 

The goals are part of the company’s sustainability initiative, “Ingreenuity,” aimed at enhancing the environmental performance of ethanol. The GHG reduction goal, when combined with the 10-percent reduction the company has achieved since 2005, would represent a 20-percent cut from 2005 levels by 2020, Poet said.

Speaking at the summit, Poet CEO Jeff Broin emphasized how the company has bolstered the energy efficiency of ethanol production. "Since we started producing ethanol 23 years ago, we've cut our energy use by more than half," Broin said. "In just the past five years, we've cut our greenhouse gas intensity by 10 percent. Now we've set a goal to reduce that by a further 10 percent and I have confidence that our team will meet and even exceed it."

Poet has produced ethanol with increasing efficiency primarily through steady advances in production technology. The most prominent of those advances is the company’s BPX process that converts starch to ethanol without heat, reducing energy needs by 10 to 15 percent. 

Fossil energy use has also decreased at Poet’s production facilities through the use of alternative energy. One facility is powered almost entirely by a waste wood boiler and landfill gas. Another produces biogas in an anaerobic digester, and three facilities employ cogeneration.

A significant future reduction in fossil energy use is expected as cellulosic ethanol technology is added to Poet facilities. Project Liberty, the company’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol facility, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 111 percent compared to gasoline -- partly because it eliminates the use of natural gas at the adjacent corn ethanol plant. 

Applying the Liberty technology to other company facilities has the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of ethanol production significantly more than Poet’s current goal, according to the company.