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A little over two years ago, the big news was that automaker General Motors had invested in start-up cellulosic ethanol company Coskata. This week, we learned that a giant from another industry, French oil company Total, has put a lot of money (the total amount was not disclosed) into Coskata, leading a Series C prime funding round. In return, Total gets a seat on Coskata's board. Total has also invested in butanol company Gevo.

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Coskata Lighthouse Cellulosic Ethanol Plant - Click above for high-res image gallery

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Coskata caught our attention back in January 2008 with the announcement that GM would take an equity stake in the cellulosic ethanol producer in an effort to bring the biofuel to market at a cost of just $1 a gallon. Since then, things haven't gone quite as smoothly as Coskata executives might have hoped and deadlines have been missed, but the company is hoping that today's unveiling of a semi-commercial flex ethanol facility will show things are back on track.

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Representatives from one of the GM-backed cellulosic ethanol concerns, Coskata, have been visiting the Asia-Pacific region recently to tout their anything-into-ethanol technology. In Thailand, they recommended that the Thai government work to make "Thailand the ethanol manufacturing hub for Asia," according to the Thai newspaper The Nation. Before committing to a Thai location, though, Coskata wants the government to have "clear-cut tax regulations, lower import tariffs for machines, and support

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Coskata CEO Bill Roe in happier times, January 2008

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Looking back on 2008, it seems that the biggest stories that shaped the automotive landscape had more to do with gas prices and economic conditions than the vehicles themselves. Regardless, there are quite a few new technologies that are just starting to make waves, and many of them are intended to reduce the world's use of petroleum and the resultant emissions. Proof positive can be seen in Motor Trend's list of the "Top Ten Tech Treasures" of 2008. For instance, the first two bits of technolog

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