On the environmentally-friendliness scale, cellulosic ethanol already beats its corn-based cousin by using waste products - not crops - to power a motor. Chris Risbrudt, director of the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, tells the Wisconsin State Journal that an effective cellulosic ethanol process that uses scraps taken from the forest would also help reduce forest fires. Specifically, Risbrudt said:

"...we spent $1.3 billion fighting forest fires (last) year in the Forest Service; because nature is trying to remove that biomass and get back to the amount it should have. If we thin it to prevent or reduce the impacts of wild fire, it costs us $1,000 per acre because we're not making many products out of that stuff. We're trying to figure out how to make products out of that so we can reduce the cost of thinning national forests down to zero."

The obvious product is ethanol, and Risbrudt says once the "recalcitrant cellulose problem" is solved, then that $1,000-per-acre cost will be mitigated by selling the products collected in the thinning process. The most promising cellulose ethanol potential that Risbrudt mentions is Xethanol Corp.'s use of the yeast strain pichia stipitis. There was also news recently of Range Fuels building a wood-waste cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia.

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[Source: Wisconsin State Journal via Domestic Fuel]


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