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The Environmental Protection Agency continues to give the green light to E15, but the biofuel doesn't have to come from corn ethanol. The exact source of the ethanol in gasoline – whether its 10 percent ethanol (E10) or 15 percent (E15) – isn't impacting the E15 debate, it does in the "food vs. fuel" debate, and that's why a potential solution coming out of Colorado caught our eye.

Ethanol producer Front Range Energy, based in Windsor, CO, has successfully tested a new process to make ethanol from waste wood. The company has a patented technology for making fuel from woody biomass instead of corn, and is the second major US ethanol producer to do so. Front Range will begin commercial production next year and plans to covert seven percent of its ethanol production from corn to woody biomass during that time. Switching over to that much biomass will reduce corn consumption by about 1.2 million bushels a year.

The Colorado ethanol producer has signed a 15-year, $100-million deal with Rochester, NY-based Sweetwater Energy to use Sweetwater's process for converting biomass to sugars, which are then distilled into ethanol. If that conversion process works well, Fort Range will increase its use of biomass. Sweetwater plans to acquire waste wood primarily from lumber mills. Some of it may come from beetle-killed pine (pictured), a source that's plentiful in Colorado.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory bioenergy engineer Jim McMillan said several firms nationwide are testing cellulosic ethanol processes and are moving toward commercial production. Freedom from corn ethanol may be in sight.


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  • 14 Comments
      RustyShackelford
      • 6 Months Ago
      I think money-strapped municipalities ought to start thinking of ways to supply ethanol manufacturers with all the bags of grass, leaves, branches, etc. they collect. Seriously, how much ethanol would be produced from all the spring/summer/fall lawn & garden biomass.
        Spec
        • 6 Months Ago
        @RustyShackelford
        But is there any money in it? Or is it a net negative because the amount of energy need to create the ethanol (by collecting the trimmings, drying them, processing them, etc.) is around the same as the energy in the resulting ethanol product.
      torandersen
      • 6 Months Ago
      faced with an engine and a motor I'd have to take the engine.. more reliable in the conditions I drive in , more powerful, and warmer when it comes to heating hopefully in time that will change.. the main thing stopping it is "the institutions of learning" give the parts to a poor person living in the rainforests, deserts, or mountains and then you'd see an advancement in technology.
      saksr1of3
      • 6 Months Ago
      Let's grow up and bring out the anti-gravity stuff, we've had enough of these burning fuels. Past time to grow up here on good ole planet earth.
      Charlie Peters
      • 6 Months Ago
      Audit the Federal Reserve & Vinod Khosla.
      vtmilitia
      • 6 Months Ago
      Several folks tried that here,to little success. I had a friend working with someone trying to use sorgum.
      Ziv
      • 6 Months Ago
      Changing World Technologies said that they could make diesel fuel out of turkey guts or offal of any sort. They also implied that they could do the same thing with shredded automobile tires (though the shredding might have required more energy than was yielded in diesel fuel) and with municipal waste from the sewer system. Really wish that it had panned out. Making fuel from people cra* would be a nice turn of events.
      liondog96
      • 6 Months Ago
      Not a great idea because I read that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning trees and wood waste in a biomass plant will be offset by the growth of new trees to replace the old ones. That will screw things up.
      HAT1701D
      • 6 Months Ago
      How much water is used in the process of converting the wood to fuel?
      EZEE
      • 6 Months Ago
      He said it's, 'Woody'
      Optimum
      • 6 Months Ago
      How about all those dead trees around the volcano in Washington state? Dead trees after the fires out west? There's no end to woody biomass; however, when nature burns something, nature needs those trees to rot and enrich the soil again for the next generation of greens. I would think that removing the biomass without replanting trees would be unacceptable. When it rains, there will be nothing there to slow the drainage and the top soil will come off. Plus the fact the ground will be torn up by the trucks, and destroy top soil even more. Hmmmmm, then there's the processing - are they going to a lot of water? Our country is having a water shortage...........someone needs to get Al Gore in the middle of that if he can tear himself away from his bank account long enough.
      ExplorerFl
      • 6 Months Ago
      We have lots of sugar plantations near the Everglades and Cuba would jump at the chance of being our supplier. Why convert biomass to sugars when we already have sugar that everybody knows is bad for you. Use it for making E15 instead.
        carney373
        • 6 Months Ago
        @ExplorerFl
        Cuba is a Stalinist totalitarian nightmare regime, North Korea in the Caribbean, and any dealing with them puts hard currency in that despotism's coffers rather than undermines it.
      mesager42
      • 6 Months Ago
      Southern Maryland is falling tree country. We have so many downed trees all over the place, perhaps the company could start up a second East Coast plant?
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