Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bioenergy Forges On Despite Credit Crunch

Many areas of business are being hurt by the international credit crunch, but the bioenergy industry holds so much clear promise that both wise governments and wise investors continue to support it.

Consider algal biodiesel. Although the technology is years away from productivity, the promise of abundant hydrocarbon fuels from algae that consume garbage, sewage, and other refuse, is too great to pass up.

And there are cellulosic liquid fuels: Getting the lignocellulosic carbon in plants to give up its energy is difficult. Right now, gasification and pyrolysis are the two frontrunners in the quest to extract energy from lignocellulose. But enzymatic conversion of cellulose to biofuels could easily be more efficient, due to the lower energies required to run the process. The US DOE is investing over $12 million in Novozyme's enzymatic approach to unlocking cellulosic energies.

Many plants that were formerly considered weeds are being considered now as bioenergy feedstocks, including milfoil.

Although the US is leading in the biofuels/bioenergy race, governments and enterprises around the world are devoting increasing levels of resources to achieving an efficient extraction of energy from biomass and sugar/oil producing plants. Israeli scientists, working in Ghana, are developing more efficient Jatropha strains for increased yield. Meanwhile in Malawi, more advanced farming methods have created vastly increased yields of crops. Elsewhere in the continent, vast plantations of oilseed crops are being planted--of both palm and jatropha.

Life sets planet Earth apart from the rest of the known universe. Energy from life, or bioenergy, is just one of the growing number of benefits humans will learn to derive from their birthright. We have not always been responsible, or clever with life. Now we need to be both. Long term benefits will be enormous.



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