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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Second Generation Ethanol: Two New Sources End the Battle over Food vs. Fuel

By Ted Nelson


One minute, ethanol was hailed as the answer to all of our environmental, economic, and political problems, the next it was accused of causing world hunger and its green credentials were widely questioned. Quite a roller-coaster ride!

That, however, was the old ethanol: corn ethanol. Corn ethanol was doomed from the start by its inefficiency, needing to be first converted to sugar and then ethanol.

The next generation of ethanol is comprised of several different technologies that hold the promise of corn ethanol (abundant, eco-friendly, political conflict free fuel source) without the unintended consequences (driving up world food prices).

The two most promising sources of ethanol are biomass and algae. Biomass-previously un-utilized agricultural waste and byproducts-can be converted to ethanol by either gasification or through the use of enzymes.

As the necessary technology and processes improve, algae holds a lot of promise because it needs only murky water, CO2, and sunlight to reproduce exponentially. In fact, because algae thrive on high concentrations of CO2, algae farms can be set up to recycle the exhaust from power plants and factories.




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