October 3, 2006

Welcome Earthbeat Radio listeners!

This morning I briefly participated in a public radio interview with Mike Tidwell, a well-recognized global warming activist/author/radio personality, about the use of bacteria to convert waste into ethanol and electricity using syngas fermentation. This was in the context of a whole show devoted to an exploration of how microorganisms might be used to help generate energy while reducing global warming. A podcast of this show will be uploaded soon to the Earthbeat website.

This blog deals in depth with how biomass (including agricultural, forestry, and urban waste) is being converted into useful biofuels and electricity through clean technologies with virtually no toxic emissions. Most of these technologies already exist either in Europe and Japan, or in pilot plants waiting for commercial-scale deployment.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, I invite you to start by reading The Benefits of Conversion Technologies and Syngas Fermentation - The Next Generation of Ethanol.

If you would like to monitor this site, I email a monthly digest of article titles to my mailing list subscribers.

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Anonymous said...

I've just done some sums which seem to show that if the US used all of its wheat for biofuel, it could replace about 5% of the total US gasoline volume...
I'd be interested in hearing what you think. You can find the post at http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/archives/2006/10/can-crops-replace-oil.html

C. Scott Miller said...

I prefer to leave food crops for human and livestock feeding. But I applaud the current U.S. ethanol industry which is currently only using "surplus" food crops for producing ethanol.

One of the themes of this blog is the need to think broadly about what can be used as feedstock. We all know sugar cane and corn for sugar fermentation. We (including developing countries that don't have corn or sugar cane) have begun thinking about grain, switchgrass, and other "energy crops" for enzymatic hydrolysis. I believe syngas fermentation will prove the most universal technology for cleanly producing ethanol because it feeds on anything that has carbon in it including:

• agricultural waste - corn stover, rice straw, damaged crops (like spinach this year);
• forestry waste;
• urban trash, plastics, auto fluff, tires, sewage, and other waste.

If that is not enough biomass feedstock, you can blend in sulfurous coal and other fossil fuels which, through gasification, can be used to transfer heat to electricity while their otherwise harmful emissions are scrubbed and converted into ethanol.