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Earth Power News

Cellulosic Biofuel Finally Ready For the Road 355

Posted by kdawson
from the closing-in-on-mister-fusion dept.
wdebruij writes "After years of research, promises, and plenty of discussion here, biofuel from inedible greens such as switchgrass — and even from corn cobs — may finally be getting economically viable. Two enzyme producers, Novozyme and Genencor, have both announced that they can now produce fuel at prices competitive with current corn and petrol-based methods. This is particularly good news in the wake of another report that food-based biofuels could cause hunger."
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Cellulosic Biofuel Finally Ready For the Road

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  • Late to the party? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjs132 (631745) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:07PM (#31161758) Homepage Journal

    This is particularly good news in the wake of another report that food-based biofuels could cause hunger."

    They JUST figured this out!!!????

    This is the problem with the green lords... they don't think ahead of the unintended consequences!

    I've HATED Corn based ethanol for YEARS... Everyone would point to some country in South America (Brazil?) about how good Ethanol was and the amount of fuel created etc... But that was end of process SUGAR CANE! NOT a major food source!

    Glad someone is finally waking up.

  • by Benaiah (851593) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:10PM (#31161786)

    Poor market management, lack of planning or agricultural investment and war cause famine, not biofuels. Zimbabwe is host to some of Africa's best ariable land and yet there are thousands who are starving. If the people hadn't let all the farms fall into disrepair after the revolution they would have so much food they could be exporting to other regions.

    There is enough farmland available to grow enough food for all the world. Better prices for biofuel stock might drive up prices short term, but will lead to greater investment and supply long term.

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:15PM (#31161822) Journal

    I've HATED Corn based ethanol for YEARS... Everyone would point to some country in South America (Brazil?) about how good Ethanol was and the amount of fuel created etc... But that was end of process SUGAR CANE! NOT a major food source!

    Sugar cane is even MORE vital. It's a major potable alcohol source (rum). Definitely not something we need to waste in cars.

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:17PM (#31161840) Journal

    Hey - are you paying for gas? Then its reasonable. When its unreasonable, you DON'T pay for gas. Thats the way it works.

    If you haven't stopped driving your car because you couldn't afford fuel prices - then you really don't have much to complain about. Cars are a luxury item, if you live in the kind of town where driving a car is necessary to get to work, you also live in a town that has a transit system that can get you within walking distance.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:19PM (#31161868)

    The people who were most strongly pushing corn-based ethanol were corn farmers and farm-state politicians, for whom an increase in the price of corn was most definitely not an unintended consequence.

  • by Aphex Junkie (633436) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:24PM (#31161936)
    Maybe the solution is to reduce the number of cars instead of trying to figure out a way to power them (in an unsustainable manner)
  • by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:28PM (#31161992) Journal
    don't blame the environmental movement. corn ethanol gas was a republican corporate welfare program for the farm corporations.
  • Re:Biofuels (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Lawrence (1733598) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:31PM (#31162024) Homepage

    That's when you convert farmland. Do the same calculations when you convert natural habitat, such as forest or wetlands, to grow this stuff. Again, you're going to be behind with respect to carbon emissions, probably by an order of magnitude, and you also destroyed more of the natural environment and threatened more species.

  • by mpoulton (689851) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:34PM (#31162056)

    Even in the 10% mixture we are currently seeing, ethanol in engines meant for gasoline is bad! It causes all manner of problems in the long term.

    Running pure ethanol will simply require a complete change in the engine to work well. Has there been much discussion of that? I fear there hasn't been any.

    Citation? Every report in the last 15-20 years has said the exact opposite. In fact, all current production vehicles are designed specifically for 10% mixtures, and many new vehicles are designed for E85 right out of the factory. What sort of engine re-design do you contemplate that hasn't already been done? The problems reported years ago were due to material incompatibility (no longer an issue at all) and lack of lubricity (also no longer a problem).

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:39PM (#31162120) Journal

    Did you happen to miss how in the early 80's or so several popular products switched to using corn syrup as a sweetener?

    That's because of our sugar tariffs keeping cheap foreign sugar out, not because Brazil burning sugar made it that much more expensive.
    http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/index.php/2006/01/24/tariffs_and_subsidies_the_literal_cost_o [accidentalhedonist.com]

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:48PM (#31162226)

    Better prices for biofuel stock might drive up prices short term, but will lead to greater investment and supply long term.

    Ah yes, the inevitable claim that magic market pixies will fix everything.

    The fact is that world food production -- never mind potential production -- is already more than adequate to feed everyone. Market economics alone, however, is inadequate to distribute the food. People aren't starving because there isn't enough food, they're starving because they can't afford to buy food. There's no profit to be had in giving food to people who can't pay for it, so they go without.

    I wish free market ideologues would figure out that the market is very good at doing things that are profitable, but not everything worth doing is profitable. The market is amoral and devoid of compassion. That's not necessarily a bad thing by itself, but it becomes so when we surrender every ethical obligation to the test of profitability.

  • by MrNaz (730548) * on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @07:51PM (#31162268) Homepage

    The food, and more generally, resource shortage is a MYTH.

    You heard me. It's a lie. A con. A steaming pile of bullshit cooked up by politicians of first world countries as an excuse for their total failure to address the profligate wastefulness of their social order. There is only a resource shortage if every country needed to consume resources at the rate as the United States. If countries could be more frugal with their resources then we'd all be fine and dandy. All 6 billion of us, and our kids.

    Oh, and fuck off if you're going to chime in with "we don't all want to live in jungle grass huts". That's a stupid response from a stupid person. There are plenty of modernized countries that don't consumer anywhere near the amount of electricity, food, raw materials or produce as much waste as the US. If the US actually used the enormous amount of resources it had efficiently, it should be the country in the world with the highest standard of living. Instead, life expectancy is pretty far down the list, health care is a joke compared even to Cuba, depression, suicide and mental health issues are epidemic, and the rest of the world hates you.

    So when politicians pull out statements like "biofuel will cause food shortages" despite the fact that this is only because of the absurd subsidies paid to US corn farmers that distort the market, making it artificially profitable to use this low yield/acre crop as a biofuel, the rest of the world gets pissed off because you're damaging what should be a logical part of any energy reform strategy.

    The real cause of food and resource shortages are the legions of fatasses eating far more food than they need, hugely overpackaged in tin cans, glass jars and styrofoam burger boxes.

    Waste is the real problem here, NOT shortage. Lets call the politicians on this BS they're feeding us.

  • by Monkey_Genius (669908) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @08:03PM (#31162410)
    Going 'through' any large city in SoCal is possible using public transit. Getting around 'inside' one is nearly impossible.
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @08:59PM (#31163014)

    The food, and more generally, resource shortage is a MYTH .... There is only a resource shortage if every country needed to consume resources at the rate as the United States. If countries could be more frugal with their resources then we'd all be fine and dandy. All 6 billion of us, and our kids.

    Ok, so you admit that there's a shortage. What exactly are you trying to say, then?

    Instead, life expectancy is pretty far down the list, health care is a joke compared even to Cuba, depression, suicide and mental health issues are epidemic, and the rest of the world hates you.

    Ohhhh, I see. You're one of those ideology-trumps-reality guys. Wow, that sucks. Is there anything I can do to help?

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @09:11PM (#31163110)

    People aren't starving because they can't buy food, there is plenty of food aid in the world, hell the US spends billions subsidizing US wheat producers so they can export it as US AID, the problem isn't production or even money, starvation is ALWAYS the result of political issues mostly dealing with war. Somalia doesn't starve because of no money, they starve because droughts dry up local production and food can't be imported because it's not safe to do so, not because they can't pay for it. This has been true of almost every famine in the 20th century.

    Don't blame the economy for food shortages because the western governments are more than happy to hand out billions of tons of wheat and other staples just to get rid of it. It's one of the prime benefits of the wheat subsidies in the US is that the federal government buys all the surplus then gives it away to those that need it worldwide. I don't like the subsidy on principle and many nations complain about it (Australia is the biggest complainer) but the mostly unknown fact of the US wheat subsidies is that the excess production is purchased by the Federal government at market rates then given away as US food aid. It costs the US citizen a couple bucks a year and feeds millions. Eliminate of the subsidy would likely lead to less food aid but nothing is certain.

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @09:17PM (#31163154)

    People aren't starving because there isn't enough food, they're starving because they can't afford to buy food.

    False alternative. Generally, people starve because of tyrants starving them, either deliberately or because allowing the poor to get food is less important to the tyrant than whatever his goals are. Very few people are so incompetent that they couldn't get enough food to survive in the absence of a vile government.

    Food is very cheap in comparison to the value of a person's labor. The number of capitalists that could feed, clothe, and house people well for the price of their labor in the absence of government interference is vast.

    I have no moral or ethical obligation to feed a stranger who is unwilling to give anything in exchange. I do have a moral obligation to prevent someone from stealing from me, a moral obligation to oppose a government that steals from me in the name of the poor, and a moral obligation to refute someone like you who attempts to persuade me that my life is the property of someone else.

  • by RajivSLK (398494) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @09:21PM (#31163194)

    I don't know which rock you (and the mods who modded you up) have been living under for the past few years but this has already happened. Ethanol induced food shortages were front page news in 2008 when oil prices skyrocketed and ethanol production increased. I know it's easy to forget these things when they doesn't affect you but the billions of people world wide who went hungry (and the many who died) definitely haven't forgotten. This all occurred very quickly in response to a rather small increase in ethanol production.

    Here are a few articles I found for your reference...

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/23/earlyshow/main4036816.shtml [cbsnews.com]

    http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2008/06/04/un_warns_of_food_shortage_and_unrest/?page=full3 [boston.com]

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article678698.ece [theglobeandmail.com]

  • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:08PM (#31164018)

    Americans have always been incredibly spoiled by their gas prices, which are still far below what pretty much every other country has to pay to fill up (as much as half the price). I say deal with it and count yourself lucky that it's not higher. Cheaper prices are just going to encourage more waste at this point; the casual driving era is becoming a relic of the past, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially for the fattest nation on earth).

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:18AM (#31165216) Homepage Journal

    your gas price IS quite reasonable ... or about than 7.5 dollar/gallon

    You're not paying $7.50 for gas, you're paying $2 for gas and $5.50 for socialism (by the gallon).

  • by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @05:07AM (#31166558) Homepage

    the car stopped being seen as an object by the majority and was now seen as a service

    (that was in France, should have specified, sorry)

    The US has basically always had "free" petrol. Whereas every other country has always taxed it to compensate for the huge amount of damage cars/vehicles make to infrastructure and environment.

    It was presumably a political choice since pretty much all other alternatives have long since vanished or been marginalized in the US.

  • by Obfiscator (150451) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @05:39AM (#31166732) Homepage

    I happen to live in Helsinki at the moment, where it seems like a lot of families raise their kids in "silly" apartments. Works pretty well for them, too, and I don't understand why American families think this is an unreasonable option.

    Now, if you told me that the school system was crap near your work and that's why you chose to buy a house almost 40 miles away...well, I'd be more willing to accept that. But the fact that you didn't want to raise your kids in an apartment seems like a bad reason to add 35+ miles to your daily commute.

  • by CompMD (522020) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @12:17PM (#31170540)

    Spoiled by low gas prices, yeah, while we are forced oversized, underpowered, inefficient engines, and screwed over by having diesel powered cars basically legislated away. If most of my fellow Americans knew that the best American cars *aren't sold in America* maybe things would change.

    Example: Ford Fusion Hybrid: overpriced, overcomplicated, in global comparisons not very efficient. Give me a Ford Mondeo TDCI instead, it gets 50-60% better economy out of a simpler design and has every feature the Fusion has. Oh wait, I CAN'T HAVE ONE IN THE US.

What this country needs is a good five cent microcomputer.

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