Friday, March 20

Alternative Biofuels

More on alternatives to corn ethanol:

Americans burn through 140 billion gallons of gasoline a year. And even if drivers switch to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, the nation’s fuel needs are expected to increase by a fifth over the next 20 years, thanks to dramatic increases in car and airplane use. Which is why, in addition to developing solar, wind and geothermal energy, policy makers, including President Barack Obama, are advocating biofuels to transform the transportation culture.

They’re not talking about ethanol from corn, however, which has already proved wasteful and environmentally damaging. Instead eyes are on a handful of high-tech labs around the U.S. that are perfecting ways to make the equivalent of gasoline and diesel from the lowest life-forms on the totem pole: yeast, algae and bacteria. The challenge is to make enough of these fuels economically and in a form compatible with today’s vehicles.

Once the next generation of biofuels becomes available, you could swing by the local energy station and fill up on a liquid that is virtually identical to gasoline. It would be made by U.S. companies, not shipped from the Middle East. And even though biofuels release carbon dioxide when they are burned, the organisms they are made from draw an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the air—making biofuels essentially carbon-neutral. Read more...

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