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Want to hug a tree, or at least a really small part of one. Then set your arm down on one of those armrests in the 2014 Lincoln MKX crossover. The US automaker is working with Weyerhaeuser and Johnson Controls on a tree-based, cellulose-reinforced polypropylene material used in the component that connects the armrest to the floor console, Wards Auto says. With properties similar to plastic, the tree-based material replaces fiberglass and is about six percent lighter. No big deal for now, but if

Don't count newspapers out yet – they might someday be used to power your car. A research team at Tulane University has discovered a microbe that eats newspapers for lunch and then spits out biofuel.

Canadian cellulosic ethanol developer Iogen Corporation and its joint venture partner Royal Dutch Shell have committed further funding to keep the venture going for two more years. Iogen Energy is currently running a demonstration plant near Ottawa that is producing ethanol from wheat straw. The demonstration plant has produced over 170,000 gallons of ethanol over the past year. This ethanol is blended with gasoline and is commercially available at Shell stations in and around Ottawa.

BP could become the first major energy company to start commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol in 2010 if all goes according to plan. BP has been partnering with Verenium Corporation to commercialize the latter company's process for breaking down cellulose into sugars.

Codexis and Shell are expanding their collaboration on developing non-food based biofuels. Codexis develops what the company calls biocatalysts, the enzymes used to break down cellulose into simple sugar molecules. Codexis and Shell have had a cooperative agreement since 2007 and the expansion will see Iogen Energy participating as well. Iogen is already operating a cellulosic ethanol pilot plant near Ottawa, Canada. The hope is that the work of Codexis will be able to improve the efficiency of

At the RETECH 2009 conference in Las Vegas recently, I learned about an interesting crop during the "Advanced Conventional Biofuels" breakout session. Phil Madson, the president of KATZEN International, said that a plant called "Sunspuds" could provide the solution to America's ethanol production limit. Katzen said he believes that 6 billion gallons of ethanol a year is the upper limit of America's domestic corn ethanol production, and that every time we go above that limit there will be some so

As we know, breaking down long-chain cellulose molecules into individual sugar molecules is problematic on an industrial scale. In nature, of course, this happens all the time thanks to little critters like the Limnoria Quadripunctata, or four spotted gribble. The gribble or sea grub, like numerous other tiny life forms, is able to consume biomass like wood and turn it into something that can more easily be transformed into a liquid fuel.

As promised, we got a chance to sit down with Wes Bolsen, the CMO and vice president at Coskata, during last week's Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference in Chicago. We wanted a little more information on the $1/gallon number for the Coskata process "cellulosic" ethanol (yes, Bolsen pointed out that it's really carbon ethanol, but he's OK with people using the cellulosic term, even though he prefers to call it "next generation" ethanol). About half of the cost is set aside for feedstocks, the res

If you get into a room with a lot of people who make up part of the cellulosic ethanol industry, things can get a little technical. This is the situation here in Chicago for the Platts 3rd Annual Cellulosic Ethanol and Biofuels conference. A few hundred representatives from a lot of companies in the cellulosic ethanol "space" (I hear this term so often these days - the green tech space, the green car space, etc. Why?) are here and the rapid-fire presentations are truly talking to the choir, as i

Mascoma Corp is one of the two cellulosic ethanol companies that General Motors invested in earlier this year. Dr. Lee Lynd is one of Mascoma's co-founders and he and his collaborators at Dartmouth College have published a paper that gives some more insight into Mascoma's process. They have created a new genetically-engineered bacteria aimed at producing ethanol from biomass. The key to this new microbe is its ability to function at higher temperatures than the naturally-occurring types that hav

Aside from metals such as iron, steel and aluminum, perhaps the most common material in cars is plastic. Most of the plastic made today is derived from petroleum. Besides the raw materials used, a lot pf greenhouse gases are produced in the processing of plastics. Bio-materials have been a major research area in recent years including Ford's new soy-foam seats. Researchers from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute have a developed a class of bioplastics called Polyhydroxyalkanoates that can be pr

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that new breeds of switchgrass yields 20-30 percent higher than earlier strains. This shows that it may be a more viable plant source to produce ethanol than previously imagined. The document states that these newer breeds produce 540 percent more energy than the energy consumed in its production, up from a previous study that estimated yield at 343 percent.

As yet another country clamoring for the lofty goal of being the alternative/renewable fuel leader, India is making some advances. And the goal seems achievable: one million plus hydrogen-powered vehicles on their roads in the next thirteen years. The hardest part is obviously getting a hydrogen infrastructure in place, but the difficulty of the task doesn't seem to faze them.

About 40 years ago, Iowa State Chemistry professor John Verkade based his doctoral dissertation on a chemical compound, and only realized a few years ago that it may very well hold the key to breaking down the cellulose that forms the structure of a plant's cell walls.

Last week, ethanol was a big story on 60 Minutes. As a follow-up, the Energy Stock Blog has an interview with Professor Daniel Kammen, the founding director of The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at Berkeley. On the ESB, Kammen says that while ethanol is a short-term solution, the future does not belong to hydrogen but to cellulosic ethanol. Kammen expects cellulosic ethanol will make up between one third and one half of our total gasoline one day, and that E85 will be 15 percent of

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