Monday, September 18, 2006

Fun with cellulosic ethanol!

Two promising reports coming out of the biofuels category today. One is that Honda Motors (HMC) has developed a new way to make ethanol from plant waste like grass and wood - often called "cellulosic ethanol."

Right now U.S. ethanol is made from corn, which I think of as a bridge to a cleaner and more secure fuel supply but not the final destination. Quantity is one problem - there is not enough corn to make all of the ethanol we Americans could consume, not to mention the high fructose corn syrup it's needed for in so much of our food. But by using plant matter like grass and leaves, and by using a particular a microorganism that converts the sugars in the plant matter more efficiently, Honda expects these biofuels to be more practical and cost-effective in their production.

Continuing the ethanol fun, Mascoma Corporation, a U.S.-based cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol company, is close to commerical production of cellulosic ethanol from feedstocks and waste paper sludge. Mascoma has partnered with Dartmouth College, which holds several patents in the technology, for further research. Like Honda's new way to make ethanol, Mascoma's research promises to lower the cost of ethanol, making its production more efficient and expanding the potential for it to take the place of gasoline.

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