NEVADA, Iowa — DuPont (DD) opened what it calls the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant, which uses corncobs, husks and stalks to produce what eventually will be 30 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and other political leaders took turns Friday both touting DuPont’s efforts to develop the next-generation low-carbon renewable fuel and bashing a federal proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol that must be blended in the nation’s fuel supply.

“This facility is a game-changer,” Grassley said. “You have achieved what Congress had hoped. We envisioned new biofuels from new technologies that were cleaner, greener and more efficient. You achieved those goals.”

Grassley promised ethanol supporters the federal government “won’t pull the rug out from under you.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize its reduced Renewable Fuel Standard levels next month.

King called the Renewable Fuel Standard the “holy grail” and promised a “holy war” if congressional opponents seek to repeal the mandate.

DuPont leaders said the company plans to sell most of the green biofuel in California to help the state meet its low-carbon fuel standard. Cellulosic ethanol is 90% cleaner than gasoline.

Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of ethanol, and it has become a hotbed for cellulosic ethanol development.

Last year, Poet opened a plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that also uses crop residue to make the cellulosic ethanol. And Quad County Corn Processors began using a different technology that teases out the corn fiber from corn-ethanol production to make cellulosic ethanol.

Ethanol supporters worry that government policy could undermine cellulosic development nationally.

“What we haven’t seen is the interest in the United States. It’s been stalled. The uncertainty around the RFS (renewable fuel standards) has caused some pause,” said William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences.

The company wants to replicate the Nevada biorefinery, which will employ 85 full time and about 150 seasonally, worldwide. It has licensed the technology in China and was hosting potential customers from across the globe at Friday’s ceremony.

Executives expect to begin shipping the advanced biofuel next year.

“We want societies everywhere to realize the economic, environmental and energy security benefits of advanced renewable fuel,” Feehery said.

Brian Sampson, one of about 500 nearby Iowa farmers who provides 375,000 tons of stover, the leaves and stalks of crops, for the $225 million biofuel plant, said the project has renewed his belief that Americans can solve important world problems.

Sampson said he was originally resistant to the idea.

“What I thought was a risk I didn’t need or want really was an opportunity,” he said.

Follow Donnelle Eller on Twitter: @DonnelleE

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