Many if not all Bio Fuel companies are expanding their testing protocols beyond sorghum and corn to sawdust, switch grass and grass clippings. Most companies feel each of these feed stocks have potential application for ethanol production. For those of you new to the Ethanol issue, cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety grasses, trees and woody plants that require no artificial fertilizer, and actually remove nitrogen from the soil and carbon from the air.
Although the technology for producing the next generation of bio-fuels from cellulosic feed stocks, manure, algae and even municipal wastes is advancing on many fronts, cellulosic ethanol is still five or six years away from being commercially viable. One commercial cellulosic ethanol plant is under construction and an additional 21 are being planned. Corn ethanol producer Poet is at an important moment in its two decade history. The company is embracing the changing landscape of the bio-fuel market by investing in new cellulosic ethanol technology and building a $200 million plant named Project Liberty in Emmetsburg, Iowa. This plan will produce 125 million gallons per year of ethanol, of which 25 million gallons will be cellulosic made from corn waste. Later this year the company says it will start churning out cellulosic ethanol from a small pilot-scale facility in Scotland, S.D.
A new batch of genetically engineered bacteria may be able to slash the cost of producing ethanol from tough materials like wood chips and switch grass, pushing the young ethanol industry closer to its goal of creating commercially competitive alternative fuel from the waste products of farming and forestry. Ethanol from cellulose, the kind of sugar in the likes of cornstalks and sawdust, is being promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, with the advantage that it does not use food crops such as corn as raw materials. Turning cellulose into ethanol involves two steps: using enzymes to break complex cellulose into simple sugars such as glucose, and then using yeast to ferment the sugar into ethanol. Both steps add to the price of ethanol. This new bacterium, known as ALK2, requires the use of fewer enzymes and converts sugar more efficiently.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 15, 2008) — An ethanol-fueled spike in grain prices will likely hold, yielding the first sustained increase for corn, wheat and soybean prices in more than three decades, according to new research by two University of Illinois farm economists.