Monday, January 28, 2008

Biofuels Prospects--Extremely Good

Biofuels do not need to drive up the price of food or cropland. In fact, bio-ethanol can be made from just about any organic material--including municipal waste.
A biofuel startup in Illinois can make ethanol from just about anything organic for less than $1 per gallon, and it wouldn't interfere with food supplies, company officials said....Coskata, which is backed by General Motors and other investors, uses bacteria to convert almost any organic material, from corn husks (but not the corn itself) to municipal trash, into ethanol.

"It's not five years away, it's not 10 years away. It's affordable, and it's now," said Wes Bolsen, the company's vice president of business development.

The discovery underscores the rapid innovation under way in the race to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply. With the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requiring an almost five-fold increase in ethanol production to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022, scientists are working quickly to reach that breakthrough.___Wired
Cellulosic ethanol can produce 5-10 units of energy for every unit consumed. It is an economical approach to biofuels. And even though ethanol is not as energy-dense as gasoline, there are ways to compensate for that deficit:
Ethanol turbocharging—Ethanol has less energy density than gasoline, lowering vehicle miles-per-gallon. However, MIT researchers are studying small turbocharged engines that run on gasoline but have a separate fuel injection system for ethanol. This approach can boost engine efficiency and enable fuel savings of up to 20–30%.____Source
Another approach to biofuels is algal biodiesel. Algae can grow on wastewater effluent. It also thrives on agricultural runoff.
Imagine if you could scoop algae out of your fish tank and put it in your gas tank. It’s not quite that easy, but it is possible to extract usable fuel from algae. Sommerfeld and Hu are working on a way to produce algae-based biodiesel for cars and trucks.

Biodiesel is a cleaner alternative to regular diesel fuel. Diesel is produced from nonrenewable petroleum. Biodiesel comes from renewable sources such as vegetable oils or animal fats. Biodiesel also burns cleaner than diesel, and it is biodegradable. Pure biodiesel can only be used in modified engines, but a diesel-biodiesel mixture can be used in existing diesel engines.

Scientists around the world are working to produce alternative fuels from a wide variety of plant materials. Ethanol derived from corn is already widely used. Unlike corn, however, algae aren’t food crops. And algae doesn’t have to be grown on arable soil—soil that could be used for growing food.____Physorg
China's ongoing energy crisis is forcing it to look into alternatives to coal. Given China's indifference to environmental quality, we can expect environmental devastation to follow wherever China's biofuel investments go:
Sinopec, China's top oil company, reportedly will cooperate with an Indonesian enterprise to set up biofuel plants and to grow energy crops in Indonesia, with a major investment of US$5 billion. Indonesia's national news agency Antara reported about the project, which would become Sinopec's second large overseas biofuel investment.

The plants and plantations are set to be located in Indonesia's Papua and East Kalimantan regions, and will be used for extracting biodiesel from crude palm oil and jatropha curcas oil.....In January 2007, another oil major, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indonesian government under which it intends to invest $5.5 billion in the development of the biofuel sector in Indonesia, announcing the establishment of 3 biodiesel processing plants in Kalimantan (earlier post).

Besides Sinopec and CNOOC, several other Chinese state-owned and private enterprises have announced large biofuels investments in, amongst other countries, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mozambique and Congo. Most of these investments have gone unnoticed because China is quite discreet about them.____Source

Given China's emphasis on profits above all else, we can expect to see the decline of the environment in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and various African countries--wherever China invests.



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