China said Wednesday it would extend the use of ethanol fuel nationwide as it seeks to intensify anti-pollution efforts while finding a use for its huge corn surplus.
The plan will "support the use of ethanol fuel throughout the country by 2020" while strengthening the capacity of the biofuel industry, according to a document from the National Development and Reform Commission and the energy administration.
At the moment, biofuels account for just one percent of the total petroleum products consumed in China, the world's largest automobile market.
The country "will have to work to produce large-scale cellulose-based ethanol and to improve its technologies" in order to meet international standards, the document said.
The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the acrid smog in cities, while "making better use of expired or overcapacity" agricultural production.
Ethanol can be made from both sucrose (beet or sugarcane) and corn, of which China has an estimated surplus of more than 200 million tonnes.
To keep prices stable, state bodies have traditionally bought most of the crops in northern and northeast China themselves.
While China has cut its corn production forecasts for this year and the next, authorities are grappling with huge national surpluses which steadily deteriorate over time.
Beijing is also eyeing other ingredients for biofuel in the long term.
"China produces more than 400 million tonnes of straw and forestry waste each year," the energy administration said, noting that 30 percent of this could be used to produce 20 million tonnes of biofuel.
China currently uses nearly 2.6 million tonnes of bioethanol a year. According to the official Xinhua news agency, gasoline blended with ethanol makes up one-fifth of annual gasoline consumption.
Although China is the world's third-largest producer of bioethanol, it remains far behind the United States and Brazil. It aims to raise production to four million tonnes a year by 2020.
On Sunday China said it was working towards a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles but gave no timeframe.