How Blue Jeans Saved the World

The latest BusinessWeek has a fantastic piece on the future of cellulosic ethanol production.

Did you know that simple enzymes originally engineered to fade and soften blue jeans are being used to break down bio-matter for quick fermentation into bio-fuels (ethanol, bio-diesel, etc.)?  This is the breakthrough that thwarts the bio-energy defeatists position that "Making ethanol is too expensive and uses up all the corn so there will be no food left for the masses".  Effectively, we’ll me making fuel out of anything organic.  That’s called freedom.  Isn’t it time we used science to solve one of the most vexing issues of our capitalist democracy? (That would be the funding, support, and tacit approval of nations, rulers, and economic systems that promote death, destruction, and terrorism)

Can we really do this?  Can we replace a substantive amount of fuel with bio-products?

Yet if efforts such as Abengoa’s can be scaled up efficiently, America’s
forests, agricultural waste, and 40 to 60 million acres of prairie grass could
supply 100 billion gallons or more of fuel per year—while slashing greenhouse
gas emissions. That would replace more than half the 150 billion gallons of
gasoline now used annually, greatly reducing oil imports. It "will happen much
faster than most people think," predicts Michigan State biochemical engineer
Bruce E. Dale. "And it will be enormous, remaking our national energy policy and
transforming agriculture."

Here’s another quote from the article text:

Lynd and Mascoma, however, are dreaming bigger. They have coaxed
microorganisms to digest cellulose and ferment the resulting sugar in one
bubbling cauldron, instead of in two separate steps. If the system pans out, "it
is a game-changer. It will revolutionize the industry," says Lynd. On Nov. 29
the company announced a deal with Tamarack Energy Inc. to develop pilot
plants.

Whatever the process, there’s no need to stop with ethanol, adds
Stanford University biologist Chris Somerville. Butanol and other substances
more similar to gasoline offer certain advantages over ethanol. For investors,
the beauty is that any of these approaches can piggyback on the corn ethanol
infrastructure. "If we did not have corn ethanol priming the pump, it would be
too risky for me to invest in cellulosic ethanol," says venture capitalist Vinod
Khosla
.

The time is now.  Support this any way you can (investment, politics, spending habits, etc.).

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