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« World's First Cellulosic Ethanol Plant | Main | UK Wind & Gas Project: First of Kind »

February 08, 2007


Carl Hage

Converting a source feedstock into H2 and CO is the same starting point for the Fischer-Tropsch process used to create synthetic diesel fuel. Does anyone know the comparitive effiency or other merits of synthesizing ethanol from H2+CO vs diesel fuel?

This seems to be a play on the now-fashionable term "Cellulosic Ethanol", usually meaning using bio-organisms to convert cellulose to fermentable sugars. Still, converting biomass to fuel is important and it will be interesting to see how competing approaches evolve.


Here's something that's been bugging me about schemes like this: what are the leftover wood chips and timber products being used for now? Because it seems to me another way to get energy from them is to just burn them. If this is already being done, then using them as an ethanol feedstock isn't "free" since something else will now have to meet that existing use. There's an efficiency question here: would more net useful energy be extracted from burning the scrap in some manner, rather than using it to feed our fleet of vehicles?


More (useful energy).

Yes, vehicle engines have poor themodynamic efficiency compared to boiler / turbine systems.

(More useful) energy.

Probably not. We pay a premium on energy in the form of portable transportation fuel for a reason.

Janis Mara

IJHTS that the idea of using hog manure for ethanol gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "hogwash." Seriously, though, doesn't it seem like a better idea to use stuff that clearly is waste, such as wood chips and hog manure, as opposed to growing crops for the purpose? Or am I confused about the entire process?


Not confused but much of the subsidy might of been enacted under the impression that the source replaced oxygen consumed upon consumption as is the case with crops.

If you move to existing material you no longer absorb pollution in growing it.

In fact making hog farming more profitable, by in essence subsidising the processing of the sewage, mean far more farts to deal with and already steer flatulence is said to impact global warming substantially.

Further sawdust isn't really waste but rather quite useful in a variety of products currently made out of it that save timber from being used. Like plastified 2x4's perhaps.

The growing of crops is what makes it renewable in fact. Where do you think sawdust comes from? A very slow growing crop.

There are differences in how a cost is created. Much of what we spend on oil gets put into the bank by the seller and reinvested in round trip tickets and gems for beauty queens for example, who in turn might use the money to attend medical school etc.

But money can also be spent in ways that don't have it continue to circulate, and this is something that formal economics has always been weak on.

The hogs might suffer, but they don't give back enough not even in energy for there toil. Imagine answering to them and explaining there torture as an unintended consequence of an effort at energy independence. If growing crops is bad, it's not as bad as it can get. We are ruining air quality, ground water, and a littany of regulatory disempowerment beyond that to squeeze the last bitter drops of energy, at great expense, just to deny those with plenty of it to sell to us the proceeds.

When consuming energy or some product down the line choosing a green source might very well mean oil. Nothing inherently bad about fossil fuels. Fact is that as some of these alternatives good idea or not come on some of the supply will drop in price, again not necessarilly good, or would, but for the price supports. By keeping prices up, the project keeps volumes down, and on and on more chaotically. There is a tariff on imported oil- constructed in a variety of ways. Want it to be cheaper? Stop those with the ear of your government from profitting from keeping it expensive. Want to spend less on it? Same. Use less, spend less, but use what makes the most sense. The price of oil could drop tremendously given enough N power. Remember, some current uses of electricity could be converted over to other engines like fission heated steam powered turbines. If you believe that will ever occur then recognising it's rather wasteful perhaps to leave too much oil under the sand complicates the situation.

I disagree about there being anything rational about the role of cars in our society. There is no good reason why we pay what we do for transporting ourselves, or much of what we bring long distances needing to be so moved.

Those who argue that wearing a sweater and running a furnace less is to suffer are not reasonable nor accurate. Much marketing contributes to our presence sense of how things should be, and almost none of it really makes sense our had our interest primary.

I'm sorry I might sound over critical. But any new source has a conflict. It wants the best, the highest, price. Efficiency, conservation, etc. are it's enemies. There is a role for government in serving the interest of the public that allows it to leave the price to sellers alone but adjust the cost to buyers in the interest of all. That costs nothing. So whatever the value of innovation it competes with regulation. Regulation of course can have as it's goal innovation, and that can be in the public interest, but it seems that much of what we are seeing is not, and that much of the regulation cares not about that.

Somehow buyers need to have greater right to effect the true cost of what they buy,not just there cost. Bloodless energy for transportation is in part a relatively small amount compared to what's currently used, and also, in part, a consequence and only to a degree of every devilish detail. All I ask is that those who claim to care should at least claim to do there best by this even if they also claim they have not a clue. At some point maybe they will. So I appreciate the question. If only all those who cared asked, what I'm talking about would be realised, you would get a real answer.


Celunol sold to Diversa for $154 million. See http://news.com.com/Biofuels+firms+Diversa%2C+Celunol+merge/2100-11746_3-6158486.html?tag=nefd.top

I am a bit surprised to see Khosla and friends cash out so soon. Is this because DOE wasn't handing out loan guarantees?

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