Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Energy expert proposes mandating flex-fuel for all U.S. sold cars

This is an interesting idea. I would only add that if we do this mandate, we should consider also mandating that these flex-fuel vehicles or a certain percentage of them be optimized for better fuel economy on ethanol. By taking advantage of ethanol's high octane, this would reduce our use of fossil fuels much more than just using standard flex technology that uses ethanol relatively inefficiently.
Energy expert touts 'flex-fuel': The author-engineer says vehicles that run on biofuels will help the U.S. break its oil addiction.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass promises good energy balance

An abstract from a study by researchers at the USDA and University of Nebraska indicates ethanol from switchgrass should result in "540% more renewable than nonrenewable energy consumed" and overall emmissions of greenhouse gases would be 94% lower than from ethanol-free gasoline. Switchgrass field for this study were established on 10 farms across widely varied locations in the middle portion of North America. These results still need to be reproduced on a commercial scale, but this is perhaps the best indication to date that ethanol from switchgrass could be highly renewable and reduce greenhouse gases significantly. Soil erosion would be less as compared to traditional row crops as well.
Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass -- Schmer et al., 10.1073/pnas.0704767105 -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Monday, January 21, 2008

E. Coli for making butanol fuel

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab are closing in on a better way to make butanol, an alcohol that has a higher BTU content than ethanol and better compatibility with gasoline. It can even be mixed with ethanol to improve its compatibility with gasoline. It also has a high octane rating, similar to ethanol, great for turbo-boosted engines. Butanol research deserves close attention as it could advance the use of biofuels considerably. Read more at: Biofuels News (Green Portal) -- Januaty 17, 2008 article by Alexandra M. Goho on

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Research confirms prairie grass could be good source of ethanol

A study by the USDA and the University of Nebraska found that switchgrass grown on marginal farmland in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota could yield 300 gallons of ethanol per acre. An acre of corn kernels grown in those same states, says an AP article, yields about 350 gallons of ethanol per acre on average. Many of the corn acres in those states are irrigated, however, while the switchgrass will not need irrigation. Fertilizer and pesticide inputs will likely be much less as well, and erosion will greatly reduced since switchgrass is a perennial and does not require annual tillage. In fact, soil planted in grasses tends to be improved over time. All in all, then, switchgrass could prove to be a profitable and beneficial crop for farmers and the quality of our soils and environment. The last remaining challenge is to design a viable system for cellulosic ethanol production. Several possibilities are about to be implimented.
from the High Plains Journal:
Research confirms prairie grass could be good source of ethanol

Friday, January 18, 2008

Florida company hopes to make ethanol from sweet sorghum

It's high time more was done with ethanol from sorghum. The potential yield per acre and energy balance could easily top ethanol from corn kernels, and without the need for cellulosic processing technologies. Sweet sorghum stems contain readily available simple sugars. This Florida venture seeks to replace dwindling citrus acres with sorghum for ethanol. -- Jeff Goettemoeller
Plan makes Brevard an ethanol producer | | Serving Brevard County and Florida’s Space Coast

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol production could fight Gulf Dead Zone, help fisheries

This article discusses a benefit of cellulosic ethanol production that should be receiving more publicity. The perennial grasses and trees that could be used as feedstock do not require large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers. Widespresad production then, could reduce the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer runnoff from corn and other annual row crops. At the same time, soil planted to perennials tends to gain in fertility, even when some biomass is removed periodically. -- Jeff Goettemoeller
January 16, 2008 -- by Rhett A. Butler:
Cellulosic ethanol production could fight Gulf Dead Zone, help fisheries

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Process gasifies biomass for ethanol production

This ethanol production process has the potential to be flexible and efficient. They claim they will produce ethanol for $1.00 per gallon. The intermediate product could possibly be upgraded to replace natural gas instead of reforming to ethanol this flexibility would be good for the economic viability of the operation. The company is Coskata. The press release is here:
Press Release - Launch

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Turbo, direct injection combo could make ethanol a fuel economy winner

Ford Motor Company has announced a major initiative to put a new engine design in a wide range of cars and trucks starting with model year 2009. Dubbed Ecoboost, the new design combines turbo boosting and direct injection, allowing a small engine to produce the same power and performance as a much larger engine. This article from Associated Press mentions the ecoboost engines will be "ethanol compatible." I assume this means they would be E85 compatible. If so, this is big news. If done properly, this kind of engine could actually get better fuel economy on E85 as compared to ethanol-free gasoline, thanks to the very high octane of ethanol. This concept is described in my book, Sustainable Ethanol, and on some of my previous blogs on EnergyAnswers. MIT developed an ethanol direct injection concept and I believe they were working with Ford. I can't find any mention of whether the Ecoboost in particular would do better on E85, but if it did, that would be a big boost for ethanol use. E85 is less expensive than standard gasoline in many areas of the country. If it provided equivalent or better fuel economy, that would be a huge incentive for motorists to seek it out and for more fuel station owners to begin offering E85 as an option.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol crops could improve soil quality

One of the important points made in my new book, Sustainable Ethanol," is that ethanol can be produced from perennial crops while improving soil quality at the same time. This view is backed by USDA's ARS National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. In a study published in the 2006 Agronomy Journal, they found that a rotation including forage crops is better for soil quality as compared to traditional corn/soybean rotations or continuous corn. Perennial forage crops could be used as ethanol feedstock when cellulosic conversion technologies are perfected. Ethanol production could then spur improvements in soil quality which would improve long-term food security as well. Learn more about the study at:
Iowa Farmer Today