In an update to this Chad’s News article, the researchers at LS9 have made some significant advances with their genetically-engineered bacteria that create gasoline, especially in terms of what can be used as raw materials. From the article: “The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock … instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.”
Archive for the 'Alternative Fuels' Category
In an update to this Chad’s News post, it turns out there can be serious problems with cars that run on grease, vegetable oil, and other biofuels. The problems are not mechanical or technical; rather, they have to do with legal and regulatory issues (at least in California).
A startup company named Coskata claims it can make ethanol for $1 per gallon. The great thing about this, however, is that they can produce the ethanol from pretty much anything organic, so they won’t be cutting in to food production. Coskata is backed by General Motors, and we can expect to see production plants in the next few years.
A United Nations expert says that it’s a “crime against humanity” to create biofuels from food (such as sugar cane or corn). He has a point, but I think he’s abusing the term.
For some time now I have been wondering why we can’t just directly create the stuff that we currently rely on nature to provide: oil, food, etc. These items are basically made from four very plentiful elements—carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen—and I see no reason why we can’t just combine the elements in the right manner to create what we need. A company named LS9 has made a step in the right direction. They have developed bacteria that take corn-based sugars and convert them to oil. (They hope to eventually use switchgrass instead of corn.) One neat thing is that gasoline created from this oil is free of contaminants, such as sulfur, that exist in natural oil.
No matter what you do, there always seems to be side effects.
Ethanol is being touted as an alternative fuel because it emits less greenhouse gases than gasoline. Unfortunately, all is not wonderful in ethanol land. A recent study found that the overall health effects of ethanol would be slightly worse than gasoline, because ethanol exhaust has increased amounts of ozone—which contributes to smog and kills people with respiratory problems.
So while ethanol would free Americans from the oil tyranny of the Middle East and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions (thus saving coastal cities from flooding), its health benefits are actually worse.
This is just another step forward in the biodiesel trend that, with the rising price of gasoline, should become more prevalent over time.