Greetings all! I enjoyed rading all of the posts about this topic; it is one I feel strongly about. I have a few comments on ethanol...
Right now, almost all ethanol produced in the U.S. is made from corn, which is a starch. But ethanol can also be produced from cellulosic biomass, which includes things like the stalks from corn, cotton residues, paper waste, paper sludge, fast growing poplar trees, switch grass, forest residues like deadfalls, and municipal waste, just to name a few of possible sources. A company named Bluefire in Orange County, CA is even making ethanol from post-sorted materials like paper and cardboard that would otherwise end up in landfills. Almost all of the sources mentioned are end products that otherwise go unused.
The problem as I see it is that people think of trash as waste and not a source of energy. If we could think of waste as food, then we can capitalize on an unused resource and help save primary resources. Even using grey water from buildings and houses for irrigation.
In addition, many useful byproducts are created by making ethanol, including gypsum, which is an excellent fertilizer and could replace the use of petroleum based fertilizers. Distiller's dry grain, an animal feed, is also produced as is corn syrup and xylithol (wood sugar). The leftover dry mass from ethanol is known as lingin and can be burned to fuel the fermentation process. There's an ethanol plant being built in New York that estimates enough lingin will be produced on site to make the plant energy self-sufficient.
There is a snag, though more like an ironic twist. First, cellulosic ethanol requires a different enzyme as a catalyst during fermentation and it is relatively expensive to mass produce. The irony is that this is exactly the place our country was in one hundred years ago. The problem then, just like now, was that most ethanol was made from corn and not enough could be produced to meet the demand. The discovery of oil meant that ethanol was not likely to be the primary fuel source but ethanol could be used as an additive to increase octane and eliminate engine knocking. Again, the problem was that it was intensive to produce so alternatives were sought; thus, the intoduction of lead in gasoline. It accomplished similar results as ethanol and at a much cheaper cost. The point is that scientists were trying to develop cellulosic ethanol but the process requires a different enzyme that was, and is still today, expensive to mass produce. So, the same technology that could have changed the course of our history was stifled. But, many groups are working in the field of ceullulosic ethanol. For examle, Honda announced a recent breakthrough. Very soon the break-through will come and ethanol will take off.
Finally, ethanol has many proven qualities such as increasing fuel octane, cleaning engine deposits, and only releases a CO2 gas which is neutral gas and does not contirbute to greenhouse gases
See, the problem as I see it is that people think of trash as waste and not a source of energy. If we could think of waste as food, then we can capitalize on an unused resource and help save primary resources. Even using grey water from buildings and houses for irrigation.
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