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    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Newswire: Compost or Fuel?

    By _Steve Hargreaves_ (mailto:steve.hargreaves@turner.com) , CNNMoney.com
    staff writer

    June 22, 2006: 12:11 PM EDT

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com)
    Cellulosic ethanol, the biofuel that differs from corn-based ethanol in that it can be made from pretty much any organic matter, has made an impression among people who matter.

    Alan Greenspan, the revered former chairman of the Federal Reserve with a big
    distaste for irrational exuberance, recently sang its praises before a
    Congressional hearing on energy security. Greenspan said cellulosic ethanol is
    the only alternative energy source that could be produced in enough volume to
    make a dent in gas usage. "You'll get an awful lot of investments [into this technology] coming in, especially if the numbers make sense, which I think they do," he said.

    And last month _Goldman Sachs_
    (http://money.cnn.com/quote/quote.html?symb=GS) , the
    world's largest investment bank, poured $30 million into Iogen, a Canadian-based
    biotech specializing in ethanol made from cellulose. It used to be thought this fuel, which some argue has the potential to replace more than two thirds of all gasoline used in the U.S., was decades away from commercial viability. But high gas prices, a touch of technical innovation, and a healthy dose of capital may move that date up. "There are a lot of people who think the technology is there," and could be competitive even if oil prices return to $30 a barrel, said Greg Bohannon, a managing partner at Greenrock Capital, a California-based private equity fund
    that focuses on renewable energy. "Why would Goldman Sachs invest in a company that's not going to be commercially viable for 10 years?" Chances are, they didn't.

    Beyond corn
    Most ethanol currently produced in the U.S. is made from corn kernels.
    Its benefits have been well documented in the press, especially since
    gasoline prices reached a record $3.06 a gallon last September and haven't fallen
    much since.

    Ethanol is clean burning. It's renewable. And it costs about a dollar a
    gallon to produce. Existing cars can run on 10 percent ethanol with no
    modifications, and they'd need only about $100 worth of tinkering to be 85 percent
    ethanol powered. And, perhaps most importantly, it's domestically produced.
    But there are a few major problems with corn-based ethanol.
    First, it takes a lot of energy to make it. Some studies have put the ratio
    as low as 1:1.5 - meaning that for every one unit of energy spent, only 1.5
    units of ethanol energy are created.

    Second, an expensive infrastructure would need to be built if people started
    using mostly ethanol in their vehicles, since ethanol is water soluble and
    the existing pipelines and filling station equipment for gasoline is not
    completely water tight.

    Third, there's not that much corn available. John Ashworth, a biomass expert
    at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said corn
    could only supply about 12 to 18 billion gallons of ethanol a year, or about
    10 percent of the nation's 140 billion gallon-a-year gasoline habit.
    After that, ethanol would start to run up the price of corn, raising the cost
    of everything from eggs to Coca Cola. Of course the same problem would
    emerge with ethanol made with sugarcane or soy or any other food crop.

    Wood chips to the rescue
    Cellulosic ethanol has all the advantages of corn-based ethanol, (there is no
    difference in the ethanol, only in the way it's produced.)
    But unlike corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety
    of things that might otherwise be considered waste: sewage sludge, switch
    grass, plant stalks, trees, even coal, virtually anything that contains

    Ashworth said there are an estimated one billion tons of such material
    available in the U.S. every year, enough for 100 billion gallons of ethanol.
    While it's not feasible to actually go out and collect every ounce of that
    one billion tons, he said it's not unreasonable to expect ethanol to replace 40
    billion gallons of gasoline in the near future.

    "There's a lot of venture capitol out there that's willing to invest in
    cellulosic ethanol," he said. "You're likely to see some plants built in the next
    12 to 18 months."

    Indeed, entrepreneurs are pressing ahead with ambitious plans.
    "We know the technology is proven," said Jim Stewart, a spokesman for
    Bioengineering Resources Inc., or BRI, an Arkansas-based biofuel outfit. "It's at
    the point of commercialization."

    Stewart said BRI uses a patented bacterial culture to transform organic
    matter into ethanol, and can produce a gallon of it at a fourth the retail cost
    of a gallon of gas.

    He said the company plans to have 4 plants operating commercially within the
    next 16 to 18 months.

    Vancouver-based Syntec Biofuel uses a different process to make ethanol. It
    turns the organic matter into gas and then moves the gas over a metal
    catalyst, which then turns it into liquid fuel. But the end result is the same.
    Syntec hopes to have a full-scale plant up and running in three years, then
    plans to make most of its money by selling the plant's design to outside

    Company spokesman Jeff Eltom touted the efficiency of Syntec's process,
    saying it plans to get 10 units of energy out of every one unit they put in.
    "We're not going to totally replace gasoline," said Eltom. "But we can take a
    big chunk out of what we import and become more energy efficient."

    Eltom's comment reflects the conventional wisdom in the alternative energy
    field: As the shift is made from fossil fuels to other options, it won't be any
    one single thing that meets the world's energy needs, but rather a mix of
    sources that will do so.

    Still, not everyone believes cellulose ethanol will be part of that mix in
    the near term.

    When the U.S. Energy Information Administration released its long term world
    energy outlook earlier this week, it projected a surge in U.S. oil
    consumption over the next 25 years, mostly due to transportation needs.
    The agency said it does take new technologies into account when making its
    predictions, but that it believes cellulose ethanol is still too expensive to
    compete in the market place with corn ethanol and gasoline.

    "It would take a breakthrough in the costs," said Andy Kydes, a forecaster at
    EIA. "It could happen, and we have hopes for it, but right now it's not on
    our radar."

    Kydes did, however, ask for the names and phone numbers of the companies
    mentioned in this story, saying the agency would "look into it."

    I've been saying this for months, anyway, sugar beets have more sugars than corn and would be a more viable crop for ethanol, plus they require less fertilizers & pesticides than corn, plus they can be grown literally in the medians of the public streets and highways, thus utilizing that wasted space for something profitable instead of just plain olde grass, while still providing the needed green space. *Evil Grin*

    Steps for maximum energy production:

    1) Grow food plants on farms
    2) Grow sugar beets in wasted and / or useless industrial areas and highway / road medians
    3) Sell produce from food plants to stores, farmers, and consumers as usual
    4) Harvest sugar beets and "wated product" from food plants and brew into ethanol
    5) Take post-ethanol sludge and place it into a methane biodigester, creating methane

    This will make a LOT of fuel! Of course, you could optionally go even further:

    1) Sell dried post plant methane sludge to farmers in pelleted or baled form for remanant animal feed (cows, goats, rabbits, etc) OR Make a pelleted fuel out of the "waste" if it has not enough nutrients left in it, and use the new fuel to run the ethanol plants.
    2) Harvest animal manure to place into methane biodigester
    3) Spread post manure methane sludge back onto feilds to replenish soils

    Talk about production! Watch the planet breathe a huge sigh of releif. Listen to the profits rolling in. Can you hear it? I sure can. And the earth consious consumers will finally love the fuel companies not only because there is natural fuel available, but also because no artificial fertilizers have to be used on the crops to make it!

    (please note that optional additional methods would require two seperate methane plants for optimum sanitation, likely placed nearby eachother. Also note that all contents of this blog are copyright Whimspiration, ArtFoodFun.com, and the owners / operators of the aforementioned.)

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