Posting in Energy
Your fuel tank could be filled entirely by a corn product with a few years. A new drop-in biofuel replacement for gasoline, backed by BP and DuPont, is set to begin commercial production in 2014.
There is more corn grown in the United States used for ethanol fuel production than for livestock feed. Yet, ethanol arguably has a demand constraint: the so-called "blend wall," and government subsidies are expiring.
Ethanol accounts for 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply. E-10, a federal blending requirement, has become a standard. However, demand has hit a ceiling at 10 percent - the availability of E-85, a far richer blend, not withstanding.
It might sound like king corn is in trouble, but the reality is ethanol will live on. The Environmental Protection Agency could increase the requirement to 15 percent, and a rising federal alternative fuel mandate will guarantee future demand. There's also an alternative path toward growth: biobutanol.
The benefit of using butanol is its impact on the manufacturing economics of refiners, said Butamax CEO, Paul Beckwith. Butanol is drop in fuel molecule that can be used in existing vehicles and fuel distribution infrastructure, he added.
That drop-in quality means that customers are prepared to pay more for it, Beckwith explained. "Biofuels and renewables can play a bigger role in terms of contribution towards the fuel supply in the USA, which at the moment, whilst significant, is limited by compatibility of vehicles and infrastructure."
Butamax, a 50/50 joint venture between the aforementioned corporate giants, is preparing for what it believes will be a next generation product that ethanol plants can move onto. The company's technology also works with sugar and cellulosic mass.
Today, it announced that a new biofuel refinery has joined its early adopters program. The program has a total capacity of 900 million gallons per year, respecting 7-8 percent of the total ethanol market.
Of course, none of its partners are producing anything - yet. They have merely expressed interest in retrofitting their existing ethanol production facilities once Butamax has proven commercial viability at its own facility.
The company isn't the only biobutanol maker. Butamax has been embroiled in a series of lawsuits with its rival Gevo. Both companies have sued each other over intellectual property issues.
Butamax intends to break ground on its own commercial facility in 2014. An existing US$50 million facility in the United Kingdom was built to develop data and knowledge that's necessary to go commercial. Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested to develop the technology, Butamax's Beckwith said.
(photo credit: Butamax)
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Ethanol subsidies skate past budget battle
- DuPont's big bioscience bets
- Next-gen biofuel in 2012: another mandate missed
- USDA bets (again) on advanced biofuels
- BP, Shell score high on biofuel assessment
- Fuel to Byrne
- CleanStar's plan to use ethanol to clean up cooking
Jun 26, 2012
No, No, No. Hugely bad idea. Aside from personally resenting spending more than a buck for 6 ears of corn, This affects a lot of other food prices (feedstock etc). And, recently discovered that chicken has now elevated above my budget for food. More than just that - the riots in Egypt were partially a result of high food prices. If we had been able to export to the world what we had previous, world food prices would have been lower. We aren't just burning our crops for fuel, we are burning food the world could use. We are burning food the world could previously afford to buy.
to perpetuate the use of transportation energy that must be put into a tank because they haven't figured out a way to own the sun and wind. While I understand the wisdom of using the installed distribution base for liquid fuels, when will we wise up and realize that electric energy from renewable sources (wind and solar) will be the ultimate solution to our transportation needs. The most ironic twist is that when all the petroleum has been used up for merely getting around, we will have exhausted a source of many industrial and consumer substances which have no suitable bio-engineered replacement, such as plastics and lubricants. BP = buggy whip company
I have yet to see a positive response to this awful article and certainly won't add one. In short, the mega corps are still up to their old tricks of plundering the earth and starving the people for their wicked greed. There are so many other source materials for fuel it's criminally irresponsible to keep using food. (Just one example not already given here: used plastic to oil technology.) But as long as our gutless wonder bought-out politicians keep paying the bill with our money, it will continue. A pox on all their houses.
Sometimes I get so fed up with some of my fellow humans. Biobutinol from corn is one such item. We go through vast amounts of gasoline and to start replacing some of that with corn based bibutinol is a good way to insure that future generations will go hungry. Basically what it amounts to is mining the Earth of minerals needed to grow food for sustenance. Instead the minerals go into corn production. Down in the US corn that was grown and shipped to Mexico where Mexicans depend on corn as a big part of their diet the corn is being used, instead, for methanol production. The price of corn has jumped up and Mexican citizens can no longer afford to buy American corn. Many places in the US which grew substantial potato crops are out of production because the ground is no longer suitable for growing anything. Man made fertilizers were used and the ground is now loaded with useless salts. Be very very careful of switching over to a plant based source of vehicle fuels. We have a ton of sources not yet tapped or barely tapped for electrically powered vehicles (tidal, wave, solar magnetic fields, geothermal, the list goes on). Hydrogen fuel would be a great way to go but we need a lot of electrical power to make that practical. Those sources I suggested are more than adequate for the world's needs. Lets not destroy our planets food producing capability just to satisfy our need for a trip to the lake.
- There is more corn grown in the United States used for ethanol fuel production than for livestock feed. - Has anyone notice the price of bread has gone up? What about chicken? Eggs? Beef? Anything that has corn in it or uses corn for feed stock has one up in price as the ethanol mandate now sucks up more than 50 percent of the US corn crop. Many of the alternate feed stocks food producers shifted to in 2007 and 2008 have themselves become targets of the bio-fuel mandate. The lack of corn has driven up the demand for wheat products at a time when less wheat is being planted to make room for corn. Bio fuel from food is unsustainable because of 1 key weakness in the plan. The amount of corn and other products grown is dependent on petroleum based fertilizers. When the oil runs out in 30 years or so, as many people here believe, the food for fuel house of cards will fall as people starve by the millions. Many people are already blaming the US ethanol mandate for cutting off food supplies of cheap corn and wheat to Africa.
When the fertilizer is gone, Americans and Europeans will starve, but the Africans will still be farming.
problem with us sending our grains to 3rd world countries is that it is cheaper than what the locals sell theirs for. This kills the local market for the same grains and drives those people out of business. While the local people can get food cheaper - they economy suffers because less people can work and make a living.
As pointed out by llandau, large parts of Africa have stopped producing food locally because the food from the US and Europe is free. Local farmers cannot compete with free.
I have always wondered about the wisdom of the western nations food subsidies to Africa. For decades we have been bombarded with advertising that says people are dying without food. Yet the population of Africa has gone from 200 million post WW II to over 1.2 billion. A 6 fold increase does not support the massive numbers of people dying argument. For comparison the US population has barely doubled from 146 million in 1946 to just 310 million in 2011. In recent years all of the US population growth has been from immigration. If one only looked at birth rates the US population would be dropping. Yet people claim the US population growth is the unsustainable one.
At best western food subsidies have delayed the inevitable crash while magnifying the impact. At some point you have to realize mother nature is at work when people die. For thousands of years groups of people have come and gone based on the availability of local food and water. The planet did not shed a tear when the Incas, the Mayans or the Toltecs vanished from famine or plagues. Instead of teaching sustainable farming and encouraging locally grown food back in the 1950s we brought in food. Instead of the population stabilizing around reliable food sources, you saw a rapid population explosion fed by the abundance of free food. In case you have not noticed, murders and suicides among local African farmers have been on the rise in recent years. Charity food shipments are mostly controlled by local war lords. When food supplies are cut off the locals violently go after the people with food. Farmers and their families are slaughtered for their food. The ones not killed are threatened by the war lords to stop growing food because it undermines their control. When a farmers family is wiped out by a war lord to make an example of him to the community they often resort to suicide to end their suffering. Which makes the war lords happy because they now have once less farmer to deal with. Overseeing all of this chaos are the corrupt relief agencies whose organizers make a comfortable living off keeping other people in poverty. There are relief agencies working in Africa that spend less than 20 percent of funds raised on supplies that actually help people. The rest is swallowed up by the corrupt machine. If you want an idea of how the locals feel about all of this try reading up on the story behind this post. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/science-scope/teenagers-from-swaziland-snag-50000-prize-for-hydroponic-system/12887?tag=search-river - I believe that Swaziland neither needs the tons of food aid coming from western and eastern countries, nor complex strategies which the country cannot afford to solve low food productivity. -
"The idea that reducing aid from America will cause the development of local agriculture is a fantasy of people who know nothing about farming and economics. It will only result in starvation" A better answer is to help educate them so they can produce enough for themselves whilst reducing aid gradually.
I've been around long enough to remember decades of starvation and malnutrition in Africa (anybody remember Biafra?) as that continent underwent continual strife from old tribal and religious animosities and the breakup of the colonial system. These areas simply could not support themselves at any level and needed outside humanitarian aid. Many of Africa's problems stem from poorly developed and outright sabotaged economic systems. Some of the best agricultural areas such as Zimbabwe and Ruanda have suffered from gross human rights violations in the last few decades. Believing the farmers there can bring in bumper crops is not realistic. The history of agriculture shows that agriculture at the small family plot level simply cannot feed large populations. It barely feeds the families farming them, if that much. The idea that reducing aid from America will cause the development of local agriculture is a fantasy of people who know nothing about farming and economics. It will only result in starvation. If you really think that letting poor and uneducated people in Africa go without aid will cause them to lift themselves up, well then you've just made the perfect argument for abolishing welfare here in the US.