The headlines for this story indicate that a team from LSU, Oak Ridge National Lab, Clemson, Conoco-Phillips and the Department of Energy are trying to make ethanol a more efficient fuel. I don't know that this is the case, as it seems that what they are trying to do is manufacture ethanol from the U.S. supplies of coal. They appear to be doing this by generating syngas from the coal and then converting the gas to ethanol. The same syngas could potentially be a source for hydrogen as well, but as the story points out, liquid fuels are easier to transport and can fuel vehicles that are already on the roads.

There are many different processes being studied to turn coal into syngas and then into some sort of fuel. This one has plenty of funding, so perhaps people in the know see potential in it. The idea of using the huge amounts of coal here in the U.S. in a way which is cleaner than what we are doing now (and what isn't) has plenty of merit. Using it to move our current fleet of E85 capable vehicles is not a bad start, but hopefully researchers find a good way to use it to generate electricity for our electric cars too.

[Source: LSU]


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