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Doubled Yield For Bio-Fuel From Waste

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-about-the-oil-from-anything-guy? dept.

Biotech 97

hankwang writes "Dutch chemical company DSM announced a new process for production of ethanol from agricultural waste. Most bio-fuel ethanol now is produced from food crops such as corn and sugar cane. Ethanol produced from cellulose would use waste products such as wood chips, citrus peel, and straw. The new process is claimed to increase the yield by a factor of two compared to existing processes, thanks to new enzymes and special yeast strains."

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I for one (-1, Offtopic)

bannable (1605677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748592)

...welcome our new corn-based overlords.

Re:I for one (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748644)

You're too late. They have been overthrown by the wood-chip-based overlords.

Re:I for one (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748734)

You're also too late. They have been overthrown by the Monsanto corn-based overlords.

Re:I for one (1)

bannable (1605677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748764)

But think of the straw!

Re:I for one (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749802)

I will not fall for your Straw Man argument!

Re:I for one (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749860)

No, but I will convert your straw man into a burning man.

See ya in NV.

Re:I for one (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750314)

I may be overreaching, But clearly the only answer is to Stop, Drop, and Roll!

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32749920)

You're both too late - oil's back.

Re:I for one (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750376)

Yeah, here in the gulf, we're swimming in it!!!

With that little side benifit... (2, Insightful)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748718)

of not actually decreasing the food supply and driving up the cost of staples such as grain and sugar.

Nothing like solving the energy issues for the wealthy while letting the poor starve just a little faster.

Re:With that little side benifit... (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748760)

Indeed, how can they morally justify taking away the wood chips, citrus peel, and straw puree from the poor?

Oh wait.

Re:With that little side benifit... (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748904)

From GP:

With the added benefit of not actually decreasing the food supply and driving up the cost of staples such as grain and sugar.

Funny how a single word can completely change the meaning of a phrase huh?

Re:With that little side benifit... (0, Troll)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749724)

What idiot flagged your comment as "Troll"!!!!!

Re:With that little side benifit... (3, Funny)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749148)

Indeed, how can they morally justify taking away the wood chips, citrus peel, and straw puree from the poor?

Quite, it sounds like my exact diet in college after buying text books.

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749582)

That was the point of the first sentence, that it was a good thing they were finding alternative sources rather than cutting into the food supply. The second sentence is with respect to growing wheat and corn specifically to create fuel, thus taking that land out of food production which these new technologies would help to offset. It is not only happening in the heartland of America, but in third world countries where large corporate owned farms are not growing food for the local population, but are instead growing starch to convert to fuel.

I'm sorry this wasn't as obvious as I thought it was.

Re:With that little side benifit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750214)

It's dangerous to go alone. Take this [cs.dal.ca] .

Re:With that little side benifit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750752)

Posting while drunk often results in suboptimal output.

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32754116)

Indeed, how can they morally justify taking away the wood chips, citrus peel, and straw puree from the poor?

While it is certainly better, in some ways, to produce bio-fuel from the things we don't actually eat, it is not the same as "now we have solved the problem" - there is still a lot to be said against this.

Just for one thing, it does not solve the fundamental problem of consumerism, the idea that "it is everybody's right, nay, duty, to own several cars and to generally waste as many resources as possible". No amount of recycling will ever be able to neutralise what this lifestyle does to our environment, so we still have the same problem.

The basic idea, that our economy must grow for all future, is a very dangerous one; it will on one hand make our population grow, and it will on the other hand accelerate the depletion of our resources. IOW, it is the direct way to disaster; we all know that in our hearts, and fantasising about how fusion or the next big discovery will solve all problems is only fantasy.

I am all for optimism about the future, but it has to make sense; I am optimistic enough to believe that we can solve these problems, perhaps even without any major disaster to force us, but I refuse to be a blind idiot dancing on the edge of the abyss.

makes for a nice talking point (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32749068)

You just might want to do a little more in depth research to see where the huge price rises in corn, etc come from. Hint: not from farmers, nor from ethanol production. It comes from wall street speculators, people who produce *nothing*, parasites, who take and take and take as much as they can get through controlling the government.

Assholes who live in NYC and Chicago make more money off of food products than the farmers make.

Even then, we have had mountains of surplus corn sitting around, you can go buy all you want. The "poor" suffer because those speculators drive the prices up.

If the anti ethanol people are so concerned over corn ethanol, they can put their wallets where their mouths are and actually buy shiploads of corn and distribute it..but they don't, they just run their mouths and never even do the most minimal research about that subject, or any number of other subjects where there is this far left urban centric legend about commodities.

Farmers want to grow food, they don't want subsidy to not grow food, that was forced on them when the government-at the direction of wall street-forced the ending of buying surplus crops in bumper years to maintain prices and switched to credit card based financial "food" for welfare and aid.

You want someone to blame for high food prices, blame those jerks, the sames ones and same mindset like with the oil spill, cut corners, skim off all you can, never think of the future or your global neighbors, just be a bloated tick and live off the labors of others.

Re:makes for a nice talking point (4, Informative)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749706)

As we all learned in Econ 101, if you decrease availability you push the price up. This is not to say that the higher price goes to the farmer, unless you are a large corporate owned farm where the corporation owns the distribution chain.

You will get no argument from me that the Options markets are parasitic, but they can only hold prices up for so long before the increased prices cause surplus goods and thus push prices down which cause options contracts to become very costly to the investors who manipulated the market. Having an alternate use for the food, like the production of ethanol, only helps the speculators hold the price higher. Since these same people are the ones who invest in things like ethanol plants, they can help themselves by building more ethanol capacity and getting government regulations in place to force more ethanol into the fuel supplies.

Any way you look at it, family farmers and the poor (and yes most poor work and work hard) end up getting screwed again by large multi-national corporations and the politicians they buy.

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#32752928)

As we all learned in Econ 101, if you decrease availability you push the price up. This is not to say that the higher price goes to the farmer, unless you are a large corporate owned farm where the corporation owns the distribution chain.

Sort of.

Here is how food markets, specifically in the US are different. You see, a lot of the surplus in the US gets used by the government in aid packages sent oversees. It's the entire subsidies issue where the government pays to have excess food produced in case a natural or other disaster kills a regions crops, the other 4 regions (*5 separate regions in the US) will fill in. It's part of the food security plan that was adapted after WWII where we saw the people living in the battlefields of Europe almost starve because crops couldn't be brought in or were destroyed and so on.

Your right in that eventually, surplus will overwhelm the market and cause a crash. Just look at oil in how the price of oil fell to a tiny fraction of what it was when the economy collapsed and all the speculators lost their asses (with banks being bailed out and the famous too big to fail, I know there was more to it but, you could see how much the costs of oil was speculation because usage and demand didn't change over night). But what is making this a tad bit different besides the entire aid disposal of excess food is that the money is not going to the producers of the crop who need a substantial investment in order to increase production. Instead, it's going to the speculators feeding on the system and middle men in the system and that in turn deprives the producer of the ability to increase production as redily to lead to that collapse.

Ok, if you don't follow me, then imagine this if you will. Lets say there are 4 people, person A who farms, Person B who buys the farmer's product and sells to person C who then makes something and sells it to the public which is person D. The speculation is happening between person B and C and C and D. What this does is trap the inflated values before they reach the producers who would use the increased money to increase production. So if person A has 200 acres and is getting the most crops possible from them, when the options contract is made, it is generally with person B and/or C. If C, then he offers B a reduced increase in order to secure a supply for D. C pockets the majority of the excess money, B has to pass some to the farmer in order to ensure they are going to get a supply to sell, so B pockets the majority and A gets a fraction of the difference in the original. But A has probably the most expense to increase production so he can't really do it without a larger cut of the inflated costs. Now person B and C can and often are the same person, as well as A and B being the same people. But it's rare that A is B or C and he is generally always D to some extent. So in the end, the farmer pays more of an increase in percentage for food then he receives, But has a larger percentage of costs to increase production (combines, tractors, and land aren't cheap, especially when you consider that in order for an increase in over all production, they have to use land not already being farmed).

While in the end, given enough time and the pace outperforming inflation adjustments (like increased salaries) which would negate a portion of the effect, the rules of Econ 101 will come true. It's just severely retarded in it's operation so it wouldn't be as obvious as you would think.

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32753120)

You will get no argument from me that the Options markets are parasitic

Quite the contrary, options markets like the Chicago Merc give sellers access to buyers and visa versa. The same with hedge funds. Where things go wrong is where large operations have fast and fat pipelines to the markets and can execute orders mili-seconds ahead of others. Those who deal in options can lose as much if not more than they can gain. A brother-in-law of mine used to day trade and he warned me about options just for this reason.

Falcon

Markets are symbiotic, NOT parasitic (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749882)

You just might want to do a little more in depth research to see where the huge price rises in corn, etc come from. Hint: not from farmers, nor from ethanol production. It comes from wall street speculators, people who produce *nothing*, parasites, who take and take and take as much as they can get through controlling the government.

If this were true, farmers would have a very simple way to get rid of those parasites: sell directly to the consumers. AFAIK there are no militias that force farmers to deliver corn to the speculators at gun point.

Here's a farmer that grows corn, there's an industry that consumes corn. Both meet, agree on a price, the corn is delivered. Simple, isn't it?

However, both farmers and industries much prefer the system where intermediates guarantee prices and delivery. With a commodities market farmers know they will always have someone to sell their products to, industries know they will have someone to buy from. The futures market tell them what price they will get so they can plan ahead.

If markets were as bad as you say, then North Korea and Cuba would be the richest nations in the world. Albania would still be Stalinist, China would have continued with Maoism and the Soviet Union would still be a union.

Re:Markets are symbiotic, NOT parasitic (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750594)

AFAIK there are no militias that force farmers to deliver corn to the speculators at gun point.

But there's something much more effective that does force them: economic realities of farming. Their exposure is so great because of input costs and weather conditions and their profit margins so small that they don't really have a lot of choice in comes to selling their crops. Usually, they're just delivering on contracts and the end-user of their product is often not even known, unless they have a specific deal with a cereal company or corporate bakery. They have to play with various hedge investments to protect themselves from getting wiped out in the event of a sudden drop in prices, or bad weather or a surge in a particular input cost (fuel, for example). Independent farming (aka "family" farming) is one of the hardest ways to make money, and thank goodness there are still people willing to do it. Far from being in a position of power regarding their transactions with "speculators" farmers are pretty much at their mercy. As you correctly point out, those speculators are the futures markets that provide the farmers with some stability.

Unfortunately, the futures markets long ago ceased being tied to anything like real world conditions and have become centers of outrageous levels of speculation. Just like the stock market has long ago stopped having anything to do with companies raising capital, commodities markets have long ago stopped having anything to do with bringing stability to the producers. The same sort of wacky derivatives that have brought such a high level of danger to economic systems are now also part of commodities markets, to the detriment of everyone but a small group of high-stakes gamblers. A lot of farmers are suddenly getting knocked about by market forces that don't make a lick of sense. It's hard enough for them as it is. We don't need to see more of them giving up on careers of such strategic importance to us all.

I don't know about you, but I'm not yet willing to completely cede our food supply to the Duponts and ADMs of the world.

Farmer checking in (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750968)

This may not be true of every farmer out there, but I'm not obliged to sell anything to anyone I don't want to. We're not all just hapless pawns of some faceless organisations resident in a Manhattan skyscraper.

If a nice man comes to me at the beginning of the season and promises to buy however much (beet/potato/turnip/broccoli/whatever) I produce at a given price, and it's a price I like, we do business. It takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the whole business. I have insurance for crop failures (owing to various natural disasters) which takes more uncertainty out. Does it all cost me money? Sure it does. If I have a surplus over and above what a speculator will pay for, I can then sell it on the spot market, or compost it, or whatever makes the most sense.

If I'm feeling lucky and I've had a few good years I can try to second-guess the market and fight it out on the spot market unaided, but the fact is that that is not easy to get right. Farmers basically invented the futures market to guarantee some kind of return, and the commodity markets revolve around that whole issue.

So, here's a big, fat hint for you: if you don't like AmeriGloboLeechCorp crushing the hapless peasants under the heel of its italian leather pumps, find some other way to ease the wild uncertainties which dominate the farming industry. Oh, and until you find that other way? Get used to poor ignorant peasants like me doing business with people who will work with us. Call them speculators, call them what you will, they can wheel and deal the futures that they have bought (with real cash money) amongst each other until they get dizzy. I got the cash in my pocket, and I'm using it to plant whatever's on order this season.

PS: I maybe sound more combative than I feel, and people obviously realise some of this, but I get very tired of people painting farmers as illiterate hicks. A modern farmer in the west is an entrepreneur (or the US, anyway) and the stupid and lazy ones go broke by the dozen. As with any small business, it's the smart ones that survive. We have inputs, capital and running expenses, markets and regulations by the score. A modern farmer has to have a sound working knowledge of everything from livestock first aid through to economic principles, to do well. As far as the purchasers? I really don't care who or what they are as long as the currency is genuine. I will charge what the market will bear, and if someone else takes the delivery and sales stuff off my hands for a cut of the action, so be it. I have plenty of work to do out here on the land.

PPS: The single biggest cause, as far as I can tell, for the rise of agribusiness in farming concerns particulary is that this is about the best way of gathering the kind of big capital that really large scale farming demands. It's not my style, and I don't need it, but a lot of people who complain about factory farming (which is really a misnomer) would do well to, again, come up with some kind of alternative rather than just whining about where the economic realities of today have led.

Re:Farmer checking in (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32752282)

Farmers basically invented the futures market to guarantee some kind of return

But now it's a golem that's eating your lunch. More money is made betting on the price of corn than growing and selling corn. That's not a healthy situation.

When our economy collapsed in October of 2008, it was because there was more money at stake in credit default swaps, betting on mortgages, than all the mortgages were worth. It's a recipe for disaster, but if the family farm goes under, some big agribusiness firm is just going to snap it up, further reducing the choices we have as consumers.

Re:Farmer checking in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32752352)

And why were the mortgages not worth the money invested in them? Because they were being defaulted on. And why were they being defaulted on? Because government subsidies and regulations encouraged lending to parties who wouldn't have otherwise qualified. Hard to see where a free market could be blamed for that.

Re:Farmer checking in (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32752728)

The problem wasn't the credit default swaps, it was the fact that huge numbers of the mortgages were 'fucking bogus'.

If home buyers had told the truth and the buyers of mortgage backed securities had understood what they were buying (or rather, understood that there were things they should not buy), there could have been 10 quabrillion dollars stacked up on top of them in CDSs with no ill effect. The credit default swaps just showed how stupid a couple of firms were compared to their peers.

Re:Farmer checking in (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32761164)

Hi, farmer checking back in to answer this.

You said: But now it's a golem that's eating your lunch. More money is made betting on the price of corn than growing and selling corn. That's not a healthy situation.

I get the impression that you missed every second word I typed, or failed to comprehend the implications, so here's an explanation for you:

First, if there weren't people dealing with the purchase, accumulation, marketing and shipping, I would have to do all that myself, and that is a lot of work. I'm busy already. Historically speaking a lot of wastage happened because of logistical and market problems - today it's still true but to a much lesser extent. People complain about carbon loads and food miles? It'd be a lot worse if every farmer had to run around in his truck pimping his wares on every street corner.

Second, the golem isn't eating my lunch. Because of the first point, it's making my lunch. A lot of farming efficiencies happened because every farmer didn't have to focus first and foremost on subsistence. Think it through: if you are a genuine subsistence farmer, you have a hell of a lot of different crops and creatures to deal with, all with their own needs, if you want anything approaching a balanced diet (not to mention usable goods like down, leather, horn and so on). Some variety is healthy, certainly, but you can easily spin yourself dizzy even taking care of a few things. Letting a farmer focus on a few things which work well on his land, and do them as well as he can, means that each farmer can, on average, be more productive. A lot of people seem to think that land is just land. I'm here to tell you that it is definitely not. A rocky hillside can be great for goats, but you'll never harvest wheat off it, not without a huge capital investment in changing the land.

Third, so people are making money speculating on what I produced. So what? They bought it. They can make cute little cabbage hats for themselves, if that's what makes them happy. If the cabbage hat market explodes, well, I got acres I can dedicate to cabbages. What if the cabbage hat market collapses between now and harvest? If I hoped to do it all myself, I'm screwed. If I sold cabbage futures, the cabbage market can turn into a dutch tulip fever collapse for all I care - I still have my money. As a sane human being, I hedge my bets by spreading things around, but that's the nature of a primary industry producing commodities. If the market undergoes a shift (lettuce hats are in now, cabbage is so last season) or prices force substitution (lettuce is cheaper than cabbage) the unprotected commodity producer had better hope he and his family can get some use out of that cabbage before it all goes bad. Hope you like sauerkraut. And cash for little Sally's school shoes? Doesn't exist. The evil lunch eating speculator golem means that I can buy my kids shoes.

Seriously, if anyone's lunch is getting eaten, it's the city folks, except that it isn't. Food is historically insanely cheap in the first world, in real terms. The real losers in this whole deal are the speculators who speculated wrong. The commodity markets are a shark pool, and I'm not swimming.

Somehow people keep this fantasy in their heads that middlemen don't deserve a cut. Until Joe and Jane America drive to my door and load up on my products at a reasonable price, the speculators are the grease which keeps the wheels turning. Let them get their cut. I'm cheering them on their way, and next season I will be calling them again to see what they want planted.

Re:Farmer checking in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32753168)

God bless you; you're the only person posting here who ain't full of shit.

Re:Farmer checking in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32790010)

It's probably late in the day for a response to be seen, but:

Thank you kindly, sir. (Or madam, I wouldn't wish to presume.)

I find that the less shit there is on someone's shoes (or boots) the more there is flowing from their mouth.

Re:Markets are symbiotic, NOT parasitic (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32752698)

So your theory is that speculators pour money into the futures markets, thus ever driving the price of the goods traded on those markets down?

Sounds stupid.

Re:Markets are symbiotic, NOT parasitic (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32753388)

Independent farming (aka "family" farming) is one of the hardest ways to make money, and thank goodness there are still people willing to do it. Far from being in a position of power regarding their transactions with "speculators" farmers are pretty much at their mercy.

Farmers are only at the mercy of the markets if they allow it. Instead of selling to speculators, who can themselves lose money, farmers can start a Community-supported agriculture [wikipedia.org] , CSA, program. Local people can buy a share of produce where during harvesting a boxed share is delivered to or picked up by the consumer. Slowly but surely CSA is growing [rodaleinstitute.org] as are organic farms, many are part of CSA programs.

As you correctly point out, those speculators are the futures markets that provide the farmers with some stability.

It's the same with CSA, the buyers are speculating what the farmer can harvest and the farmer gets operating capital up front.

I don't know about you, but I'm not yet willing to completely cede our food supply to the Duponts and ADMs of the world.

I don't know about DuPont, substitute Cargill though and I'm with you. If government is going to subsidize food at all instead of giving billions of dollars to these large corporations, give the money to those in need. Expand Food Stamps, where those in need get help instead of enriching the already wealthy.

Falcon

Re:Markets are symbiotic, NOT parasitic (1)

matthewd (59896) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750946)

I would also add that farmers can participate in the futures market, at least one way I understand it is used is to hedge against price declines. They even have access to these newfangled things called computers and spreadsheets that help them keep track of their breakeven points and develop trading strategies. Some farmers have even been known to store their harvests when market prices are low (ie, below their profitability targets) and sell them when the market prices have recovered. Go figure. It almost sounds like they expect to be able to make a living farming.

So what do they do with it after they bought it? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750418)

You just might want to do a little more in depth research to see where the huge price rises in corn, etc come from. Hint: not from farmers, nor from ethanol production. It comes from wall street speculators

ok, so i'm a speculator. I've bought 1000 tonnes of corn in the hope it goes up. Then what do I do?

Do I burn it?
Do I dump it in the ocean?
What?

At some point, that corn has to be sold to the end user, and in the process I increase the supply, just as I increased the demand when buying. i.e. when it's consumed, someone paid the market rate for it.
 

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751220)

It'd seem to me that any country that could make a surplus on staple crops could actually benefit from higher prices. Excess produce can be sold for higher prices, bringing higher income. The problem comes when you're importing food to survive, like haiti. Or when you're not a farmer and the higher food prices produce a significant impact on your life.

It's always a bit of a balance between the farmers, who want higher prices, and the people, who may or may not be able to afford them. In countries where a LARGE proportion of the people are employed in agriculture, and their main exports depend on it, then it could be beneficial. Nothing's simple.

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32753268)

It'd seem to me that any country that could make a surplus on staple crops could actually benefit from higher prices. Excess produce can be sold for higher prices, bringing higher income.

That's not how economics works, the scarce costs more than the abundant. For instance when the supply of silicon does meet the demand the price of silicon goes up. And when supply is greater than demand then prices go down.

The problem comes when you're importing food to survive, like haiti.

Question, why are Haitians importing food instead of their farmers growing food? Because of the massive subsidies given to large agricultural businesses in Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, and the US. When US exporters can sell US corn in Mexico cheaper than Mexican farmers can grow it, I'm using Mexico as an example because corn originated in Mexico and Central America, because the US government gave them billions of dollars in subsidies Mexican farmers can not compeat. Corporations like Archer Daniels Midland [wikipedia.org] , which the Freemarket and Libertarian think-tank CATO Institute has called the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history [cato.org] . Another good example of corporate welfare is Cargill [wikipedia.org] , the largest privately held corporation, it's so large that if it was listed on stock exchanges it would be on Fortune 500's list of the top 10 largest corporations.

Falcon

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 4 years ago | (#32796512)

Goods can be scarce on the global market but still have a production excess in the local economy. If i'm not mistaken, this would produce high profits for the people producing the excess.

A good example might be nickle mining in say, Canada. Canada produces significantly more nickle than it can use domestically, so an increase in the price of nickle due to global shortages will help nickle producers in Canada.

Simply apply the same theory to agricultural production. Like, for example, the coffee production in Brazil, which vastly outstrips domestic consumption.

Re:makes for a nice talking point (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32806190)

Goods can be scarce on the global market but still have a production excess in the local economy. If i'm not mistaken, this would produce high profits for the people producing the excess.

Yea, higher profits until a competitor starts exporting as well. Or the market is flooded with the product. Then prices drop.

Falcon

Re:makes for a nice talking point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32753382)

Assholes who live in NYC and Chicago make more money off of food products than the farmers make.

Yeah! They're called Jews!

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749446)

Ok, so it doesn't compete with food supplies - but what uses does it compete with?

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749568)

My nicely landscaped lawn. I'll be damned if I have to pay more for my mulch.

Re:With that little side benifit... (2, Insightful)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749602)

From the list of things they were using to produce the fuel, I'm guessing the compost pile.

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750252)

My question about the whole benefits of yeast produced ethanol thing is whether, in the long term, it can actually produce enough energy to make the whole process carbon neutral. Can we power all the devices that produce the industrial byproducts with all of the energy from those by products?

I get that theoretically , the whole thing is carbon neutral (at least it seems so to me) - as the yeast is releasing carbon sequestered in plant material via ethanol and carbon dioxide (and that eventually gets converted to CO2 as well) which will then get turned into other plant material and go through the same cycle. But are there enough spare hydrocarbons to really go around? It seems to me as though there is so much efficiency lost in such a roundabout process that the whole cycle can't actually be sustainable.

Does it even make sense, in the long term, to invest the time, money, and fossil fuels in the process of developing this type of technology (biofuels, in general) in favor of more direct methods of harnessing the Sun's energy (like solar panels (and thus necessarily batteries/fuel cells), and sort of by extension, fusion)?

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750540)

Two Points:

First, you are looking at the wrong angle. Biofules is just solar power using a different angle. Thre is more then enough carbon to make biofules work.

Second, the real question is knock on effects. Farming the fuel stock could increase CO2 in the area. Farmed land tends to relase greanhouse gasses that was stored in the land. . Fertilizer tends to use a lot of hydrocarbons in production. Most biofules need to be cooked with heat - which tends to come from hydrocarbons. I think biofules are viable and can lead to reduced CO2 but there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

is it carbon neutral? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751934)

My question about the whole benefits of yeast produced ethanol thing is whether, in the long term, it can actually produce enough energy to make the whole process carbon neutral. Can we power all the devices that produce the industrial byproducts with all of the energy from those by products?

The process is, or can be, carbon neutral. It can actually be carbon negative, taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than what's released when farmed then used. That's because the residue, what's left after the alcohol is produced, can be added to or buried in the soil keeping some carbon in the ground. A benefit is that that increases the fertility of the soil so more can be grown on poor land.

However is there enough land to grow crops to produce alcohol? Or Diesel fuel? I doubt it.

Does it even make sense, in the long term, to invest the time, money, and fossil fuels in the process of developing this type of technology (biofuels, in general) in favor of more direct methods of harnessing the Sun's energy (like solar panels (and thus necessarily batteries/fuel cells), and sort of by extension, fusion)?

This is my own opinion, which others also have, is that future energy needs will require a number of different energy sources to be developed. In warm arid areas algae [wired.com] can be farmed to produce hydrogen and or biofuels. Other biofuels such as this can be produced on land where food crops will not grow. In places where ground source heat is close to the surface geothermal energy can be used. Geothermal energy can even be used as a baseload. Where sunny solar, concentrated solar [wikipedia.org] , PVs, and solar thermal energy [wikipedia.org] can be used. Then where windy, wind turbines can be used.

SciAm has the article A Solar Grand Plan [scientificamerican.com] concluding solar energy "could supply 69 percent of the U.S.'s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050." As regards wind the NREL Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States [nrel.gov] details the wind potential of various regions of the US. The Rocky Mountains alone contain enough wind potential to provide the 48 contiguous states with electricity. So what's needed next is a national smart grid and baseloads. According to another SciAm article currently blackouts, brownouts, and other power losses cost US businesses $80 Billion a year so it makes sense to build a new grid and make it smart. Then for the baseload, as stated above geothermal can provide some with Natural Gas fired power plants supplying more until a cleaner baseload source is developed.

Falcon

Re:With that little side benifit... (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751608)

Nothing like solving the energy issues for the wealthy while letting the poor starve just a little faster.

Gee, imagine poor people with land that can't grow food on growing crops for fuel they can sell, then being able to buy food.

Falcon

Duke Nukem Forever (2, Interesting)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748752)

There have been research and "breakthroughs" in cellulosic ethanol production reported with stunning regularity since 1898. Yet, a commercially viable process remains elusive. The combination of enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation described as a breakthrough in TFPR is prior art and covered in the Wikipedia article (see link in summary).

Until the process becomes cost competitive with corn, this is just a story about some enzymes and yeast that only a zymurgy nerd could love.

We'll see whether they commercialize this before cold fusion becomes a practical source of commercial electrical power.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32748858)

I can't help but wonder how much of this cost-effectiveness is due to subsidies on the corn. Does anyone have statistics on this?

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (4, Informative)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748936)

Cellulosic isn't remotely cost effective even when the source materials are free or nearly so, as when wood chips or other waste products from other industries are used.

I used to grow corn. The subsidies vary from year to year. For the last several years, they have amounted to around 5-10% of the price of corn. There are also subsidies for ethanol production itself.

One fact to consider is that pulpwood has subsidies, as well.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749016)

The subsidies are a small part of the price of corn, but the resulting demand for fuel from corn is having an impact on supplies for poor people. I think we should end corn subsidies.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32749618)

Cellulosic isn't remotely cost effective even when the source materials are free or nearly so, as when wood chips or other waste products from other industries are used.

Or possibly less than free.
I know a few people who do tree care for a living, and one of their larger expenses is paying someone to dispose of their wood chips.
Several tons of wood chips a month.
They would be thrilled if someone would take them for free. Or for less than the cost of tipping fees at the landfill (also solving another problem in the process...)

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (2, Interesting)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750504)

A few years ago I did a write up about a company in Missouri that was converting waste from a turkey plant into crude oil. I don't remember details, but it seems that operations like that, even if not strictly cost effective on oil production, could have a major role to play once you factor in the elimination of a large portion of what now goes to a land fill.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32758056)

I know a few people who do tree care for a living, and one of their larger expenses is paying someone to dispose of their wood chips.

Say what? They need to buy a dyer and a packager and sell the mulch to garden centres. Or just sell the chips to someone who'll do that.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (3, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749260)

Yep, it's a press release, and we have to wait until we see some hard numbers to see whether or not this single development would make it "commercially viable".

But you can't disregard the fact that - if the claim is true - doubling the output of the fermentation process makes it one step closer to "commercially viable" than it was before.

They're not claiming that "fermentation & enzymatic hydrolysis are the breakthrough," what they're claiming is that a new combination of enzymes and refinement of the process have increased the yield significantly.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

skrimp (790524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749262)

No problem was ever solved until it actually was.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749526)

That's because the "breakthroughs" are referred to as such out of wishful thinking.

It is a waste to Slashvertise them.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (3, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749628)

Man I wish I could have figured out that this is just another clever lie from the cellulosic ethanol cabal.

How do you do it? It's like you're privy to data that's not available to normal people!

Skepticism is perfectly healthy. Refusing to consider anything because "it's never worked before" just makes you look sort of dumb.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750318)

Even with this, does ethanol still cost more in energy to produce than it provides? It currently provides a way to raise the price of corn by increasing demand, but that is really hurting many people who rely on cheap corn as a food source.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751848)

Yeah. When I saw this I wondered what ever happened to the producing ethanol from switchgrass that was making the news a couple years ago.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

vasago17 (972827) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751860)

Check out POET (www.poet.com), they have a commercially viable cellulosic ethanol process up and running right now in Scotland, South Dakota and will be opening their first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in 2011 in Emmetsburg, IA. I work for a company that was invited to demonstrate and test our equipment on their corn cob bales last November at their Project Liberty Field Day. They've got the process down and are going into full swing with it.

Until the process becomes cost competitive with (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32753438)

corn

Ethanol from corn is not cost competitive. The only reason corn is used to make ethanol is because of the massive subsidies corn ethanol gets. Brazil [wikipedia.org] , the second largest producer and the world's largest exporter of ethanol uses sugarcane as it's feedstock. Sugarcane produces more ethanol than corn does. Even better as a feedstock is switchgrass [wikipedia.org] .

Falcon

Ethanol?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32748814)

This means we can make booze more efficiently!

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748884)

You can have the wood-chip vodka. I'm sticking with gin.

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748940)

Eugh. I'll drink MOST anything, but gin is one of those few spirits I just won't touch. Smells like pine needles to me. I usually prefer rum, but whiskey is nice now and then.

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749208)

Oh sweet Pine resin, is there anything you don't improve?

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

gregor-e (136142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751678)

It's mostly the juniper berries you're smelling. Gin also often has spices as diverse as coriander, clove and cinnamon in it, depending on the brand. I couldn't stand the taste of gin until I got to be in my early 40's. Then, all of a sudden, gin became a very yummy drink. Try gin and grapefruit juice (or soda). You may eventually change your mind about it.

Gin and tonic, baby... (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32762788)

Man, you don't know what you're missing. Glass full of ice, a little Tanqueray, a squeeze of lime, top off with (diet, for me) tonic water == the most refreshing drink on the face of the earth. Vodka & tonic ain't bad either, but that "pine needle" (juniper) taste mixed with the tonic and lime... is it quitting time yet? I'm thirsty.

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749832)

If I remember correctly, wood alcohol will kill you. I suppose that using this new method might make something that won't kill, but I'd certainly check first before making that martini.

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750120)

which is what makes me wonder...
We've been able to make methanol from wood for ages. Is there any particular reason we want ethanol for cars when methanol burns just as well?

Re:Ethanol?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32751276)

I don't know how well methanol blends with petrol -- alcohols are generally poor lubricants, so mixing some petrol (a la E85) eases conversion of petrol engines. If the solubility isn't good, it would be a problem, though not insurmountable.

Methanol also has significantly lower energy content, and essentially the same octane, so less MPG and refueling more often -- even if it is cheaper per mile (and I've no clue if it is), the "less MPG" bit will be hard to market around. You see how bad ethanol fuels already have it this way, even though on a proper engine they get practically the same mileage as petrol. (PROTIP: when using a higher-octane fuel, you always boost the compression ratio -- on a dedicated conversion, you can usually buy racing pistons and/or heads, and it'll still work with high-octane racing petrol; if you need to switch both fuels in the same engine, just use a turbocharger. As long as you stick with gigantic naturally-aspirated V8s and refuse to convert it, you deserve sucky fuel consumption.)

Re:Ethanol?! (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 4 years ago | (#32765868)

May I offer a slight correction? As I understand it (doing mechanical repair for the last 25 years) methanol, propane, and natural gas actually have a nearly infinite octane rating compared to gas (petrol). However, as you correctly point out, they have lower energy density per unit volume. Historically this has been overcome by using much higher compression ratios, much like a diesel. Otherwise one could use a turbo. This brings the output power back up to gas (petrol) levels. Using high-compression pistons saves the fuel economy compared to the turbo, if you think about it. The turbo crams more air/fuel in at a higher pressure, whereas high-compression pistons use the ordinary amount of air/fuel and simply compress it harder. Certain classes of race cars do both, particularly Indy cars. Team Honda is getting over a thousand horsepower from one litre this way.

Note that it's ethanol we're talking about... (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32762838)

Although this stuff is made from wood, it's not "wood alcohol" (methanol). No doubt they'll denature it, though, to avoid drinking alcohol taxes.

Re:Note that it's ethanol we're talking about... (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32763202)

Thanks for the clarification Sean. I managed to avoid organic chemistry in college thus avoiding discussion of anything with too many carbon atoms. Thankfully it wasn't required for my branch of engineering. :) I only remembered the wood alcohol thing from a news item when I was a child many decades ago and had no idea there was a distinction to be made between ethanol and methanol. As for avoiding the oral consumption of the stuff, around here they add it to normal gasoline (likely with some needed additives to make it stay in solution). I suspect that for most people the odd flavor would curtail such notions. Of course there will always be a few...

Monsanto effect (2, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748844)

There's a potential problem with the whole 'special yeast' part - yeast is airborne, and its main feature is that it rapidly reproduces as it eats. Historically, yeast strains were developed by leaving starched/sugared water out, then selectively culling the foam that grew on top until you had something that made bread rise and taste good.

Basically, yeast is everywhere - and the problem with using a special yeast is the same problem that many biofuels using microflora have: Contamination of your carefully bred cell lines, and spread of your proprietary licensed lines into nature leading to lawsuits.

I hope the Netherlands has better laws about owning and licensing life than Monsanto follows. Yeast would be FAR harder to legally control than even food crops, as enough use would mean you could accidentally gather their 'product' almost anywhere on earth just by leaving out some floured water, then rapidly selecting for best performance across quick generations.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Monsanto effect (2, Informative)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748986)

As you quite rightly mention in your first paragraph, people have been creating "special" yeasts for years. There are already literally countless "special" yeasts manufactured for use in beverage making and industry.

In other words- that's hardly new. Presumably that problem has long since already been encountered and solved.

Re:Monsanto effect (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749942)

It has been encountered and ignored. For brewers and bread makers (and the many other varied users of yeast), it is really not that important that the yeast not get into the wild because that's where they got it from. Basically the question is, is this "special" strain of yeast one that they isolated from the wild or is it one they created by injecting new DNA into an existing strain? If the former, it is no problem if it gets into the wild, it was already there. If the latter than there may be problems, but just as important, it will be harder to monetize it because others will be able to obtain it by setting up collection points near your plant and using similar selection processes to what people have been usign for years to isolate this strain.

Re:Monsanto effect (2, Informative)

MikeyO (99577) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749022)

An overwhelming majority of the beer and wine and spirits we drink are made from specialized yeasts. Its not terribly difficult to keep a specialized yeast strain from being contaminated by other yeasts. Ask any homebrewer (like me).

Re:Monsanto effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32749204)

But has your special yeast ever escaped into the wild?

It's not the purity of your product that creates problems for the whole rest of the world, it's your potential contamination of the wild and uncontrollable strains with patented genetic strains which would then propagate in the wild. When someone unwittingly later collects and refines a wild yeast which then turns into a legal liability because it has the genetics of a laboratory patented strain is when we have the problem.

Re:Monsanto effect (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749292)

I can assure you, while brewers as a whole take great care at their art, some have been sampling their wares, and no doubt have released yeast into the wild. Probably a lot of other things, too. Like household pets, invectives, and their bladders.

Re:Monsanto effect (-1, Flamebait)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749408)

I am sure that over the thousands of years people have been producing their special yeasts they have gotten out. I know the world is already doomed.

Fuck. I hate knee jerk fucking eco tards.

Re:Monsanto effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750006)

He's not talking about ecology, he's talking about genetic patents, and the army of lawyers sent after people that accidentally harvest 'their' yeast for their own use.

Re:Monsanto effect (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#32758398)

RTFP

He's not an eco-tard, you fuck-tard, he's talking about the risks of litigation when this *patented* yeast gets around. Just like how Monsanto were suing farmers because their corn had been pollinated by their neighbors patented crops.

Re:Monsanto effect (1)

bangwhistle (971272) | more than 4 years ago | (#32750176)

Yikes! I've been dumping the trub from my brewing on my compost pile. God only knows what damage I've done.

Ask any homebrewer (like me). (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32758812)

An overwhelming majority of the beer and wine and spirits we drink are made from specialized yeasts. Its not terribly difficult to keep a specialized yeast strain from being contaminated by other yeasts.

What do you do? I used to freeze starter in ice cube trays however I stopped because I preferred making different beers and wines. I don't make enough to justify keeping starter for each style. So I buy a strain of yeast for each one now. I'm hoping to grow kiwis in my garden next year or the year after then make wine with them. If so I may go ahead and start keeping frozen starter again, if I find a strain that works well.

Falcon

Re:Monsanto effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32749330)

That's right, why just the other day, my stale bread turned into Sam Adams, and my Sam Adams turned into stale bread! I oughta sue all of those yeast-using jerks!

Re:Monsanto effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32754456)

I wouldn't worry too much about the Netherlands, or the company (DSM). They've not exactly new to modern biotechnology. DSM can trace back its heritage to Gist Brocades, which was one of the first companies involved in penicilllin production - another yeast product. As a result, there's no urgent need for new Dutch laws in this field, or new controls imposed on DSM.

With DSM's history in commercial yeast biotechnology, I find their claim also believable. They've got a real reputation in the field, not something they'd risk for a simple press release.

But are the enzymes cheap enough? (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32748960)

Enzymes for conversion of cellulose into something more useful as a fuel have been around for years. The problem is that the enzymes tend to cost too much. This outfit at least has a plan to grow the enzymes at the refinery, rather than shipping them in. The costs of these processes have dropped substantially in recent years. [nytimes.com]

Fuels are very cheap per unit volume. Any input to the process has to be even cheaper.

Won't be too long... (1)

RenoGeek (1247478) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749416)

...until we're throwing our banana peels directly into our Flux Capacitor for fuel.

Re:Won't be too long... (2, Informative)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749564)

You must mean a Mr. Fusion.

Re:Won't be too long... (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749870)

It's all fun and games until we reach peak banana peel.

Waste? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749852)

what waste? everything list would be better being mulched and returned.

There is however a problem with the Yeast (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | more than 4 years ago | (#32749876)

In that it also eats flesh, controls your mind, and makes you smell funny. Oh yea, and make you crave braaaaaiiiinsss!

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32750178)

Now, in the U.S., we can subsidize major food conglomerates to throw away the crops they don't grow!

POET is already there... (1)

vasago17 (972827) | more than 4 years ago | (#32751826)

POET (www.poet.com), the world's largest ethanol producer has had a pilot scale cellulosic ethanol plant running in Scotland, South Dakota for over a year now. I work for a company that was invited to test our equipment on their corn cob bales last November. Right now, POET has dropped their production cost to about $2.35/gal of ethanol and are in line to get the price down even more. They will be starting up a commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in November, 2011 in Emmetsburg, IA. They've cut energy usage by developing enzymes to ferment the cocktail instead of having to boil it. At some plants (they have 27) they pipe vented methanol from local county landfills to provide some of their energy needs.

wood chips..... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32799186)

>would use waste products such as wood chips
If this is true, it would be nice to be able to contact all wood working companies and have them send their wood chips left overs to a recycling plant to make some biodiesel fuel and maybe be able to set up more gas stations with bio diesel alternative

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