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Re: E-M:/ Stupidity: Re: Get ready for coal-fired ethanol plants

Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>

On Thu, 2 Mar 2006, Lowell Prag wrote:

The issue on whether or not there is a net energy savings in using corn to
produce ethanol for fuel, has been debated for many years and there is
much data available. The answer is yes and no, depending upon which study
you read.

To me, the whole issue is stupid.

There is enough fuel contained in all of our waste organic bio-mass in
this country which can be extracted as methane (it's natural gas: the same
as you use in a stove) and it can easily be used to power both cars and
trucks without resorting to using our farm lands to produce fuel.

In Europe, anaerobic digesters to produce methane from waste organic
bio-mass, are widely used.

The issue in the USA, is why we have not widely employed this proven
technology which could while producing fuel, rid us of most of our land
fills and incinerators, resolve the manure problems with cafos, etc., and
solve all of the other problems created by our present methods of dealing
with our other organic wastes.

Production of methane from biomass cellulose can be done - cows do it (with bacteria) - but it is a very slow reaction and hence uneconomic. The value in doing it with sewage is a way of treating the sewage, and most of the methane thus produced is used for heating in the plant.

The REAL solution to our energy - and global warming - problem is finding efficient ways to digest cellulose to liquid and gaseous fuels. The known fermentation technologies are too slow and inefficient. What are needed are synthetic catalysts (enzymes?) for converting cellulose to at least its monomer (glucose) for fermentation, or even better directly to liquid or gaseous fuels. Money for research to accomplish this would seem to be as important and significant as the funds put into fusion research for the generation of electric power.

--Rane L Curl

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