A breathless announcement of a cellulosic ethanol breakthrough.
At a Brazilian ethanol conference June 4-5, Brazilian government-funded researchers said they have perfected a method of producing cellulosic ethanol that drastically reduces the cost of processing. At this point, the assertion -- and many other similarly optimistic claims made at the conference -- is unconfirmed. But should it prove true, the world could well be peeking over the horizon at a massive geopolitical, not to mention economic, shift. [More]
As many of you know, I consider cellulosic ethanol the cold fusion of agriculture - mostly because the energy density of the feedstock is so low, and transporting that much stuff negates the energy yield.
More tricky is the problem of the ethanol production itself. Cellulosic biomass is bulky and materially complex, unfit for the same methods of ethanol extraction used with corn. In order to even get the stuff into manageable form, processors must soak it in a pre-treatment bath, followed by an acidic or enzymatic digestion that splits it into simple sugars. [More]Perhaps cellulosic ethanol will become a major part of energy plans. But think about the ramifications if we can sell crop residue.
The ethanol boom will look like a cheap date.
[via Andrew Sullivan]