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February 28, 2008


Al Fin

If government finances biofuels science it should be basic science for new areas. Not ethanol. Butanol or longer chain hydrocarbons, bio-electricity, or biogas.

This is another fine example of government investing in the past. It is not as bad as corn ethanol subsidies, but almost. Ethanol is not a long term solution (as anyone with an IQ over 30 knows). Invest in the future not the past.

Cellulosic ethanol should be past this point in the business cycle anyway. Let industry finance research for better operating margins in cellulosic ethanol.

David B. Benson

Al Fin --- DoD has been called the most dysfunctional department in govenment. Considering this includes DoI and DoD, that is a most damning statement.

Kit P

Ethanol is a remarkable renewable energy success story. One of the reasons is advances in enzymes. What we do not yet know is how large a share US ethanol industry can take from foreign oil producers. Research for new enzymes is basic research. In this case, good job DOE.

Jeff Deasy

I want to urge support for the legislation just passed by the House of Representatives to provide tax breaks for wind power, solar power, other alternative energy sources, and energy conservation.

The money is to come from the elimination of tax breaks for the oil and gas industry that would amount to $18 billion over the next 10 years. The 5 largest oil companies earned more than $120 billion in net profits last year.

The bill is expected to face opposition in the U.S. Senate and face a potential veto by President Bush, making it critical that concerned citizens contact those elected to represent them and make themselves heard.

Kit P

Jeff are you stupid or what? Do you think you can just pass along the dems really stupid party line and not have anyone notice? Repeating stupid ideas over and over for political gain will not solve any problems. Holding a good idea hostage to a bad idea is stupid. It is not a compromise.

While I am a strong advocate of the PTC to support higher capital cost projects which has lower environmental impact of producing electricity, this position takes no great insight. DUH!!!

Now what about domestic production of transportation fuel? By lowering the tax rate on new domestic production, less oil will come from banana republics. More US jobs, more US tax revenue but then again Jeff wants to punish oil companies for investing the profits in the US.

Jeff being against profits is a very stupid position. Nobody is going to sell you the gasoline you consume very long without making a profit. You can move to someplace like Iran of Valenzuela but I urge you not to write any emails critical of government in that case.

If you are for domestic production of energy, be consistent. If you are only for 'clean' energy, please show me your plan for 'clean' energy to meet demand.

Write your elected official and tell them to support a balanced and responsible policy. Thanks to then Texas Governor and now President Bush, we are building 'clean' energy projects at the capacity of US industry and expanding that capacity.

Taking incentives away from oil producers and giving it to electricity producers can only appeal to the shallowest of political thinkers.

David B. Benson

Oops. I meant to write that DoE has been called the most dysfunctional ...

Al Fin

David, I consider all government dysfunctional, so you are right either way.

Has anyone here read the new National Science Foundation PDF report "Next Generation Hydrocarbon Biorefineries (PDF)?" It is literally dynamite, and a blueprint to an economic gold rush in bio-energy.

Corn ethanol is not a success story. Even cellulosic ethanol is a meager success compared to what is coming in biofuels and biomass energy. You owe it to yourself to read the report, if anyone is depending upon your opinions on biofuels.

David B. Benson

Al Fin --- Thanks for the pdf, but I prefer to follow biopact, daily, wherein there are short articles about all of the advances, including the ones in the ToC of the pdf file.


Kit P

Al Fin, it could be that I define success differently than you do. It has to work. I can find many farmer COOPs that are successfully producing ethanol. It works and is contributing to reducing the demand for petroleum. I can also find many dairy farmers who are successfully producing electricity by treating manure. There are even a few cases where the two ideas have come together.

Al Fin is playing the game of my pixie dust solution is better than what works and all other pixie dust solutions. A popular game at this blog. In the real world, there are many good solutions and many paths to success. Biorefineries using using thermal/chemical processes are also a solution where I can cite examples that work.

Al Fin

Pixie dust? If you read the pdf you should have the mental firepower to see that it is not even close to magic, but rather mundane technology in fact. Try it out, Kit. You can do it!

Kit P

Yes, producer gas is mundane. GTL has been around a long time. Last summer there was another conference on the topic.

Al Fin objects to the US government providing R&D money for emerging enzyme research to improve ethanol production. Al Fin thinks thermal/chemical processes should get R&D money.

However, I think both should be funded for reasons previously stated.

Roger Brown

Below are some quotes from the Next Generation Biomass Refinery report referenced above. This report is not a road map for utilizing 'mundane' technology for turing lignocellusosic biomass in a resource with simliar economic value to conventional petroleum.

The full potential of biomass as a resource for
transportation fuels, fine chemicals or syngas can
only be reached through improved understanding of
the underlying conversion chemistry. This in turn
means the development of predictive models, which
will support the process design and optimization of
a conversion process. Given the complexity of
biomass, highly detailed model predictions will be
impossible in the foreseeable future.

Another serious problem for fast pyrolysis
processing is the high acid number of the bio-oils,
which will cause corrosion in standard refinery
units. Although the bio-oils can probably be
processed using 317 stainless steel cladding, this
material is not standard in refinery units making it
difficult to introduce bio-oil into the existing
refinery infrastructure. Therefore pyrolysis bio-oils
require pre-processing to reduce the acid number
before processing in typical refinery units.
Research is needed to understand how to
accomplish this pre-processing in an efficient

Due to the complexity of the biomass pyrolysis reaction system, the underlying chemistry is not well understood. Therefore, the correlations that have been developed between bio-oil composition and pyrolysis and condensation conditions are empirical. The lack of basic understanding of the reaction system limits the ability to draw general relationships between biomass composition, pyrolysis conditions, condensation conditions, and bio-oil composition.
The complex and ill-defined issues related to biomass conversion pose a huge challenge to the production and widespread use of biofuels.
As biomass is routed through various liquid phase processing steps, the degree of compositional complexity may increase, primarily due to the complex chemistry of oxygen functional groups. Often this complexity may prohibit a detailed analysis of what occurs during a reaction step. One way to address this issue is to use a model compound, such as purified sugar, polyol, or a process intermediate, as a feedstock to a given reaction step. Even in these cases, the products emanating from a reaction step may not be able to be fully characterized due to non-specific reactions.

Another major obstacle is to
understand whether and how the liquid phase
affects reactions, for which there are known
examples. There is yet no well-established
methodology for describing reactions across the
liquid-solid interface under the influence of the
dynamics of the liquid, with quantum chemical
accuracy. Ad-hoc or highly simplified models can
be found in the literature that attempt to capture
the effect of water on adsorption and reaction.
Some of them may well be effective to some
degree and can possibly be used beneficially, but no
calibration of results is yet available, and better
theoretical development is very much needed.


Nobody wants a biomass refinery in their back yard; esp. in New England States overflowing with biomass as a result of climate change.

Bio-chemists vs. Audubon ladies and Green Fanatics railing against ICE's...no contest in Maine and Vermont.

Garko Novis

buying gas has become a major investment decision, as in "do i invest in some food so i can get thru the day or some gas so i can get where i have to go?" It should never be this way but it is. But that doesn't mean we have to just suffer. There is a real solution in Water4Gas and you owe it to yourself to check it out! http://w4g4mpg.info


Have you ever noticed the the wrong wing resorts to name calling like a 10 year old on the play ground? They have no intellectual discussion because they have no intellect, so they resort to smearing and name calling.

Bob Wallace

"Nobody wants a biomass refinery in their back yard; esp. in New England States overflowing with biomass as a result of climate change.

Bio-chemists vs. Audubon ladies and Green Fanatics railing against ICE's...no contest in Maine and Vermont."

Nobody wants a biomass refinery in their back yard. Absolutely true.

That's why we set aside some areas, generally away from our backyards, for industrial and commercial uses.

I live in one of the "greenest", most liberal, most environmental activist parts of the States and we have a biomass -> electricity plant up and running.

I've never heard anyone complain about it. It's located in a part of the area that we use for heavy industry and it's a 'good neighbor'. It controls its pollution.

If we had more fuel we'd build another. And we've been looking at biomass fuels that we could grow without decreasing food production.

Oh, and let Rush know the next time you call him about how biofuel processing, done correctly, is just fine with our Green Fanatics and Audubon "ladies".

Kit P

As Bob Wallace suggests, 'NIMBY' may be a misnomer. Can someone think of a catchy acronym for big city lawyer.

Local environmentalists will tell you where you can put an energy facility. Over in the 'brown field' industrial park. Local environmentalist will also tell you where you can not put an energy facility. Over in the sensitive habitat. They are knowledgeable of local environmental issues and ask penetrating questions. Show them how to solve local problems by creating jobs, property taxes and not dioxin and cadmium; and they will support your project. Local environmentalists are easy to identify. They wear hiking boots and frayed flannel shirts. They drive PU with camper shells. Look in back and you will find the trash they collected when hiking.

Then there are the big city environmentalists. They wear bergenstock with expensive natural fiber socks and drive fancy German cars. They hyperventilate about corporate greed and mourn the fall of the USSR totally obvious to horrendous environmental record of the communist governments around the world.

I will cite one example. My company was working with local dairy farmers to add anaerobic digesters to produce electricity by treating the manure using similar methods as any big city does with human wastes. This was about 10 years ago. We screened more than 25 dairy farms and almost all could should you the great work they were doing to protect the environment. Out of state lawyers hauled the most proactive dairy farmer into federal because he had deep pockets. During a follow up interview, this farmer thought he would win because of his good record. The big city newspaper made him look like the most evil corporate polluter. The final score card, the big city attorneys $750,000 and the environment $0. The headline in the paper talked about a big environment victory. The federal court ordered him to do what he was already doing.

There are infinite number of economically viable biomass projects on the order of $5M until you consider risk of frivolous lawsuits. These costs are a given for large nuke and coal plants that cost $5B.

oilfield equipment

i hope they really push this technology. i am not sure where it will go.


Biomass,not only is economically viable,its an important part of saving our planet


Great Article. Has there been any updates since the article was written?

auto scanner

There are infinite number of economically viable biomass projects on the order of $5M until you consider risk of frivolous lawsuits.


Thank you, it's been very useful.

Best Male Enhancement Pills

Thanks for the sharing. Very interesting!

Diamond Core Drill

There are number of economically viable biomass projects that do exists in today's world..And it is also an important part of saving earth..

Car Lease Broker Los Angeles

I'm from San Diego but haven't heard of Verenium, after all this time does anybody know how the research is going?

Dentist Hollywood

Glad to read that several companies are already trying to do this.

Air Purifier

Wonderful that DOE is investing money in these projects!! With all of this money involved we should hopefully come up with something soon, if we haven't already!

Rug Cleaning Los Angeles

Interesting that 3 of these research companies are located in California, I wonder why that is. Do we do a lot of Enzyme research there?

fish tv

Good stuff, thanks for posting it! So happy they're giving money for this research.

Therapist New york

Is the California reserach being done at Universities? All of those CA cities have good colleges nearby.

Travel to UK

Such an interesting article, thanks for sharing your ideas.

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$33 million dollars is a lot, they better be making good progress!

furniture stores burbank

Glad there are a lot of places working on this, funny how 3 are in california and one is in new jersey.


good to see some progress on renewable energy. All of the items, ethanol, solar and wind power are parts of the solution to finding renewable energy. none on their own will be the sole solution

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