Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Photo from the Senate Committee on Energy)

Local bioethanol plants might be forced to stop production soon because of the high cost of molasses used as feedstock, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian warned on Sunday.

Gatchalian, head of the Senate energy committee, said limited availability of local molasses, used as feedstock by more than 90 percent of bioethanol plants in the country, have led to high prices.

Molasses now cost P11,500 per metric ton, which translates to P59 per liter or higher of bioethanol, he said in a statement.

“[Bioethanol producers] say that they might soon be left without a choice but to stop the production of bioethanol since oil companies no longer buy from local ethanol plants if the price of bioethanol is too high,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“In fact, they are saying that there’s already a plant that is no longer producing bioethanol because of high price of molasses,” he added.

By law, gasoline sold in the market must have a 10 percent bioethanol blend.

But data from the Department of Energy showed that the country’s bioethanol plants, which have a production capacity of 365 million liters, produce only produce 270 million liters of bioethanol.

To meet the 10 percent blend, fuel companies need 550 million liters, forcing the government to import nearly 51 percent of the country’s bioethanol requirements.

“We plan to convene the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels to look into the feedstock and pricing problem, and, in the end, come up with long term solutions to this perennial problem,” the lawmaker said. (