It is now awaiting approval to begin its five-year plan to build and run an ethanol plant in Tomakomai city from the Ministry of Agriculture. "The fate of the project is yet to be known until the farm ministry makes a decision," said Hisako Kawakita, a spokeswoman for Oenon, which is hoping to get a share of the nearly 8.5 billion yen ($69.8 million) the ministry has set aside from its annual budget to promote renewable fuels to supplement gasoline reserves for vehicle use. To win the government subsidies, Oenon will need to beat out five other groups that have also submitted ethanol plans, a decision that will be made by the end of this month by the ministry and an independent committee.While Japan is the world's second largest petrol consumer (almost 60 million kiloliters a year), it is almost entirely dependent on imported fuels and has therefore sought in recent years to invest heavily in ethanol-based alternative fuels to become more self-sufficient. Rice, which is the country's staple food and one of the few mass-produced farm products in the country, was seen by many as an ideal food crop upon which to base pilot ethanol production plans.
Oenon hopes to build a plant which will have an annual capacity of 15,000 kl when it starts production in April, 2009, according to Hokkaido Intellect Tank, a private research firm affiliated with the project alongside the Hokkaido municipal government and other firms.
See also: ::Cellulosic Ethanol in Japan: BioEthanol & Celunol, ::Sake to Power Japanese Cars in the Future, ::Ethanol Produced From Cheese, ::Mexico Approves Corn and Sugar Cane Ethanol Law, ::They Can Have their Cellulose and Digest it Too, ::Iogen's Cellulose Ethanol - Straw-Powered Cars, ::BlueFire: "Waste" Cellulose To Ethanol, ::SunOpta To Build Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Based On Wood Chip Feedstock