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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Biofuels or Bio-fools? — AMERICAN.COM: A Magazine of Ideas, Online

Biofuels or Bio-fools? — AMERICAN.COM: A Magazine of Ideas, Online: "Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley legend, is leading the venture capital rush into replacements for gasoline: biofuels made from corn and rougher stuff like switchgrass. But if prices fall and political subsidies vanish, the bubble may burst.

Khosla On September 21, 1901, in the small town of Jennings, a group of men working for W. Scott Heywood became the first to find oil within the bor­ders of Louisiana. Heywood’s luck didn’t last. The well soon clogged with sand and dirt and was aban­doned. But today, Louisiana produces more than 50 million barrels of crude oil and condensate per year, so a sign outside Jennings (pop. 10,986) commem­orates that lucky strike.

Then, on February 16, 2007, Jennings reached another milestone. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco visited the town to cut the ribbon for a dif­ferent sort of energy project: a 50,000-gallon pilot plant to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Like gasoline refined from crude oil, ethanol—that is, ethyl alcohol—is a fuel that can be engineered to power cars and trucks. While normally made from fermented kernels of corn, ethanol can be concocted from the cellulose (a sugar-based polymer) found in almost any vegetable matter, including fast-grow­ing prairie grass and the husks and stalks of corn itself.

To expand ethanol production to a truly use­ful level in the United States, these other, rougher sources of fermentation—which produce what’s called cellulosic ethanol—are essential. “If ethanol is to be a significant solution to our transportation needs,” said Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, “it will have to be cellulosic.”

Up until now, however, low yields and high costs have made cellulosic ethanol a commer­cial dud. Then, a few years ago, a small company called Celunol Corporation, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, licensed a handful of patented genetically modified bacteria developed by scien­tists at the University of Florida."


UPM, ANDRITZ, STORAENSO AND NESTE

We've big companies going into cellulosic ethanol in Finland. The first pilot plants should be running 2008. The rumour goes that we are advanced in this field. Time will tell more about the productivity, yield and total cost of operations.
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