Thursday, March 5, 2009
Last year as the food riots hit Mexico after the cost of corn skyrocketed, it had already occurred to me how crazy it was to grow corn for ethanol. I never did think you would get more ethanol out of it than it took to produce the fertilizer and plow and harvest the crop and separate the oil from the corn. I have been watching as scientists struggle to cope with the cellulose and ferment grasses, sugar cane leaves and so forth to produce alcohol. Today I went to a start-up and learned about growing algae in ponds to process for biofuels. There is a lot of biology to manage, and then you have to deal with all the non-fuel components. One way to make it economically feasible to use algae for fuel is to also be able to harvest some high-value product such as a pigment or a dye. My chemist got a free lunch, I got an education. Stay tuned.