And now, what many of our readers have been waiting for: cellulosic ethanol. As can be seen from the comments on posts dealing with ethanol production, many people want to take food, specifically corn, out of our gas tanks and back into ourselves. A new plant has been proposed by the Massachusetts-based Mascoma Corp that would create cellulosic ethanol in Michigan. Not only would corn not be used for ethanol at the new plant, the resulting ethanol would most likely be cheaper to produce. Of course, subsidies and tax breaks are part of the plant's proposal, of course. Speaking as somebody who lives near Detroit, the resulting jobs are sorely needed, and the plan also includes developing new technology from local universities.
The technology in question will be needed because the source of the ethanol will be wood. As of this writing, there are a few competing technologies which can use biomass for ethanol, and they need more tinkering to get it all just right. The process uses, in Mascoma's own words, "enzymes, microbes and processes for economical conversion of cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol. " This is new technology that we are talking about, as opposed to the long-standing tradition of making moonshine from grains. But, if they do get it right, the payoff could be worth it. It is also probably worth mentioning here that after the biomass is broken down, it could be used in more ways than just producing ethanol.
- Termites could be the next frontier in cellulosic ethanol production
- Makin' ethanol from the old poplar tree
[Source: Detroit News]