Sunday, October 25, 2009

Converting Carbon Chains Into Ethanol

Summary: The competition is on to produce biofuels without needing food crops. Many companies around the country are developing methods and refining methods to convert many viable resources into ethanol. The industry is working towards reaching the goals Congress set in 2007. They are running a little behind schedule due in part to lack of capital because of the credit crisis, but mostly because discovering the keys of how to successfully break the materials down in an economically feasible way is proving to be difficult. However, progress is being made, and around the country small plants testing different methods of biofuel production are springing up. There are a variety of ways being used to create biofuel (Coskata, a leader among the group, uses an 8,000 degree torch to convert wood chips into its base elements which are then fed upon by bacteria who secrete ethanol), and many companies are pursuing different routes hoping to claim the prize of creating the second generation of ethanol.

Comment: As the actual costs of creating these fuels begin to surface, we will have a better picture of what the energy profile in the future may look like. The forms of ethanol production these companies are pursuing are carbon neutral, and could be very beneficial to the environment. Scaling the prototype factories into larger, more economical sizes is the key, as Wesley J. Bolsen, Coskata’s chief marketing officer, says, “the question is how rapidly we can scale.” If we could start creating environmentally friendly, cost efficient fuels from garbage, construction and demolition waste, trees or special crops we would be moving in the right direction.

Daniel Gellerup

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