February 8, 2007

Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race

We knew it was coming. Vinod Khosla has finally made a bold move to back up industry-wide speculation that cellulosic ethanol would soon emerge as the next phase in ethanol production. The surprise is that wood would be the feedstock of choice given the vast headstart of corn-based biorefineries in the country and the obvious synergy of basing corn stover conversion technologies near sugar fermentation plants.

However, the high energy potential of wood cellulose, the ready available of cheap waste, and the search for a renaissance of forestry-based industries makes the announcement a welcome one to the "nation's woodpile" in the southeastern states.

See the Range Fuels, Inc. press release at the BIOstock Blog.

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Joe Erjavec said...

How long do you estimate it will be before people in the federal government will begin talking about cellulosic ethanol?

It seems like the infatuation is currently with corn-based ethanol, and though scientists and experts have been speaking about how corn for food will conflict with corn for fuel, I don't get the sense that is catching on yet.

C. Scott Miller said...

The "infatuation" has more to do with corn sugar fermentation being at the right place at the right time.

The Department of Energy is very enthusiastic about cellulosic ethanol given their publications to date (see http://bioconversion.blogspot.com/2006/11/us-doe-5-year-plan-for-biomass.html). There have also been on-going hearings in Congress (http://biowaste.blogspot.com/2007/02/small-town-with-big-green-vision.html).

A cynic might suspect that the Iowa caucus has something to do with the focus on corn - until at least after the spring of 2008.

But I think, in reality, that Congress will get behind CE when there have been some commercial-scale successes - and the strain on demand for corn gets too heavy.

Joe Erjavec said...

Thanks for the info! I'll check out those links.