Accompanied by the usual fabulous photography, a new article in National Geographic covers developments in the biofuels sector that could make ethanol from corn obsolete. Corn farming in America is input-intensive, highly mechanized and damaging to the environment, making corn-based ethanol an iffy proposition in terms of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. According to writer Joel K. Bourne, Jr., there are better feed stocks on the horizon:
"We can create ethanol in an incredibly dumb way," says Nathanael Greene, a senior researcher with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But there are many pathways that get us a future full of wildlife, soil carbon, and across-the-board benefits." The key, Greene and others say, is to figure out how to make fuel from plant material other than food: cornstalks, prairie grasses, fast-growing trees, or even algae. That approach, combined with more efficient vehicles and communities, says Greene, "could eliminate our demand for gasoline by 2050."
Anyone who is interested in biofuels and doesn't mind having their beliefs challenged would be well advised to follow biopact.com. It's the best biofuels news site.
Also, Mike Palmer's blog devoted to Low Input High Diversity biofuels (versus High Input Low Diversity biofuels such as cornstarch ethanol raised by conventional industrial ag methods):
If the economics don't work, recycling efforts won't either.
As our little contribution to make this economics of recycling more appealing, http://LivePaths.com blogs about people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.
Ethanol is not perfect, it is simply better than gasoline and the world havoc that comes with it. Let’s not all swallow the oil company rhetoric bait and demand we wait for the perfect fuel. We are already facing the perfect storm with war, terrorism, climate change, and a $1 billion per day oil addition habit. There is a real sense of urgency to make progress now. Current energy legislation proposed in Congress addresses many of the concerns that the NRDC has with ethanol – which are already hared with many other ethanol proponents. Most reasonable people agree ethanol needs to eventually be sustainable at all levels to significantly replace the one-trick-pony we currently have with imported oil and gasoline. But making an assessment and coming to a verdict today about ethanol’s value is like throwing out the black and white TV with four channels and rabbit ears before watching the NFL ticket in high definition on the Dish Network. Corn-ethanol has cracked the gasoline only market place after 100 years and paved the way for new ethanol technology investors. Without the progress corn-ethanol has made there would not be six million flexible fuel vehicles on the road today -- that can one day burn 85% cellulose ethanol in the future. Keep the faith, the world is changing right in front of your local E85 pump. I urge those interested in understanding more about ethanol to read the Ethanol Fact Book.