Monday, January 30, 2006

A real plan for Ethanol

Ethanol always seemed like a crazy idea - grow food to make gas? But now, "cellulosic ethanol," made from agricultural waste looks to be an exciting alternative.
Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol. Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80% while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30% dent in America's gasoline consumption by 2030.

We may not have to wait that long. After decades of being merely an additive to gasoline, ethanol suddenly looks to be the stuff of a fuel revolution--and a pipe dream for futurists. An unlikely alliance of venture capitalists, Wall Streeters, automakers, environmentalists, farmers, and, yes, politicians is doing more than just talk about ethanol's potential. They're putting real money into biorefineries, car engines that switch effortlessly between gasoline and biofuels, and R&D to churn out ethanol more cheaply. (By the way, the reason motorists don't know about the five-million-plus ethanol-ready cars and trucks on the road is that until now Detroit never felt the need to tell them. Automakers quietly added the flex-fuel feature to get a break from fuel-economy standards.)



Blogger Flame Thrower said...

I heard an interesting comment the other day about bio fuels. In essence, the proposition was that as oil prices go up and people start to switch to bio fuels, that in turn will eventually force food prices up as more and more land is converted to fuel production. Something to chew on.

1:08 PM  

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