Saturday, September 1, 2007

Biodiesel: A New Way of Turning Plants into Fuel

Ethanol, the most popular and commercial biofuel, has long been refined out of plant matter, but it requires the costly, energy-intensive step of distilling every molecule of water out of the solution.

...If the process can be scaled up to industrial levels, it could be a major step toward the creation of a transportation fuel that is relatively clean burning, doesn't contribute to global warming, and provides U.S. farmers with billions of dollars of new income.

...He points out that the Brazilian petroleum industry also resisted government attempts to promote biofuels, but it is now a big supporter -- more than half of Brazil's oil imports have been replaced with biofuels (see the Technology Review April cover story on world-changing ideas).

...Charles Wyman, a distinguished professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, whose specialty is the biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other products, says this new methodology could give biodiesel a fighting chance to succeed in the commercial marketplace by allowing manufacturers to make either ethanol or biodiesel fuel.

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