May 20, 2006

Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel

Green Car Congress spotlighted a MIT Energy Conference held May 13th by providing links to the video and presentation graphics of Vinod Khosla whose keynote address was titled Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel.

Could someone please tell Mr. Khosla that synthesis gas fermentation achieves a more universal, efficient, and direct solution to biomass-to-ethanol conversion than enzymatic hydrolysis? It is the major technological link missing from his presentation.

Other than that, his position is very close to the position of this blog. See excerpted summary below (thanks to Green Car Congress:


MIT Energy Conference: Focus on Ethanol and Plug-ins
19 May 2006
by Joe Adiletta

Khosla argues that the US could rapidly and effectively transition its transportation infrastructure to an ethanol-based one, similar to Brazil’s rapid historic transition of a similar nature.

Khosla called upon lawmakers to provide three simple ”solutions“ to support this movement:

1. A requirement that 70% of new cars produced be Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs);
2. Mandate that 10% of all fueling stations carry E85; and
3. If oil falls below $40 per barrel, provide a “cheap oil” price support structure.

Moreover, Khosla made the pitch that based on the technology that he has personally seen in labs around the world, there is no reason to believe that substantial advances won’t be made in all of the following:

• Yield of biomass per acre
• Cost per ton of biomass
• Yield of ethanol per ton of biomass
• Cost per barrel of ethanol
• Productivity of cellulosic-based techniques

Given these expected advances, and an already proven ethanol economy in Brazil, Khosla made a compelling argument that the time for national transition is, in fact, now.

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