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Startup Claims to Make $1/Gallon Ethanol

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the get-ready-to-fight-the-lobbies dept.

Power 456

gnick writes to mention Wired is reporting that an Illinois startup is claiming they can make ethanol from most any organic material for around $1/gallon. Coskata, backed by General Motors and several other investors, uses a process that is bacteria based instead of some of the other available methods. The bacteria processes organic material that is fed into the reactor and secretes ethanol as a waste product.

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the memories (4, Funny)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#22189970)

secretes ethanol as a waste product.

aaah...reminds me of college.

Better idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190078)

Can we grind up dead Iraqies and use that as fuel? They're no shortage of that thanks to Republicans.

Re:the memories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190086)

$1? Isn't that the same price Kathleen Fent charges for a blowjob?

Mr Fusion? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22189986)

First thought was Marty's "Mr Fusion" on the back of his DeLorean. (Dump in a few banana peels -- 1.21 gigawatts!)

Re:Mr Fusion? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22189996)

Don't you mean niggawatts?

logic (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22189988)

so by this logic, we don't need to worry about efficiency, right? we could get 2% efficiency, but if we're getting it cheap, that's all that matters, right?

Re:logic (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190068)

we could get 2% efficiency, but if we're getting it cheap, that's all that matters, right?

Yes.

The efficiency argument as it pertains to ethanol is related to the so-called "energy positive" problem. The concern is that if it takes more energy to create the ethanol than it does to farm it and convert it to fuel, then what exactly is powering all that farm equipment? It can't be the ethanol, or we'd eventually run out of energy.

On the other hand, grid power consolidates the power infrastructure and therefore is wonderfully inexpensive. If this machine did nothing more than take grid power and convert it straight into ethanol, it would be a miracle machine. It's almost as good as if you had a machine that converted uranium or plutonium directly into millions of barrels of ethanol. If you get a slight boost from the energy already stored in the corn, so much the better!

The key thing (economically) is to get off of oil. Oil is starting to weigh down our economy and gives far too much power to current and potential enemies. Making transportation cheap again would rebound the economy, bring food prices back in line, and generally improve things for the U.S. (and really, the rest of the world) all around. :-)

Re:logic (4, Informative)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190236)

The worst estimates are that we're getting 124% energy out with ethanol with current technology - a net gain. And those numbers are based upon old data for crop and ethanol yields and equipment.

Re:logic (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190364)

Correct. Unfortunately, the current refinement processes still result in a more costly product per unit of energy than petroleum. Gasoline prices are close to making ethanol affordable, but not quite. The advantage to this process is that it would make ethanol cheaply. A result that is far more desirable than pure efficiency. If it's highly efficient in the end, all the better. :-)

BTW, Pimentel still disagrees that ethanol is energy positive. He's really just being a jerk, pushing data that's nearly 30 years old. Not a single study that's independent of his numbers has shown the same results. The only problem is that there are enough gullible people who listen to him. :-/

Whoo hoo! (3, Funny)

biased_estimator (1222498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22189990)

Moonshine all around, its on me tonight!

Re:Whoo hoo! (1)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190104)

I'll take you up on that.

Only one problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22189994)

The bacteria used in the process only grow in the middle east.

Re:Only one problem (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190232)

The bacteria used in the process only grow in the middle east.
Yeah, what're all OUR fuel sources doing on/under THEIR soil?

Great, but (5, Funny)

Hellad (691810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22189998)

it seems that this is the cost of production, not the cost to the consumer. If we are selling it a buck a gallon from the pump after the inclusion of taxes, then I am interested. Until then, please use my corn for good uses such as the syrup in my Mt. Dew like God intended.

Re:Great, but (1, Redundant)

ximenes (10) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190010)

It says 'most any organic matter'. Maybe they'll use people instead of corn.

Re:Great, but (1)

Hellad (691810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190020)

hmm, but what will that do to the prices of soilent green?

Re:Great, but (5, Insightful)

mixmatch (957776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190040)

That is a modest proposal if I may say so myself.

Re:Great, but (1)

mac_mcgrew (1007583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190122)

You didn't know? That's Big Oil's biggest secret...gasoline IS people!!!

Pre-Stone Age (1)

ilikepi314 (1217898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190184)

Not just that, but JURASSIC PRE-PEOPLE!! Thanks for desecrating the remains of our (great x 10^45)-grand-parents, you jerks.

Re:Great, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190048)

It also doesn't include the cost (or the energy cost) of fertilizing, cultivating, harvesting, and transporting the organic matter than goes in.

Re:Great, but (2, Informative)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190110)

This is an excellent point. As someone whole lived in the middle east for nearly 20 years, I can assure you that the crap in the media about oil production costs is complete nonsense. Production costs per barrel - not per gallon - in Saudi are under 50 cents. All they have to do is turn the taps. And there is enough oil there fore decades. Everything we hear to contrary is nonsense spewed by oil companies and governments who are making out like bandits with oil at $100/barrel.

Re:Great, but (2, Informative)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190280)

No one is debating how much oil there is(maybe a little), all I've heard for the last couple years is how the refineries can't refine the oil fast enough. The environmentalists must be rich because they keep trying to shut down any plans to build more refineries to keep up with demand.

Re:Great, but (2, Insightful)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190422)

Sounds good to me. I'm all for artificially limiting the supply of gasoline to force people to improve their efficiency and seek out alternative fuels. I hope they don't build anymore oil refineries, ever.

Re:Great, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190320)

1 barrel is 42 gallons. $42 per barrel isn't so bad, considering that crude oil trades close to $100 per barrel, must mostly be transported from the middle east, needs to be refined and contains only about 50% gasoline, whereas ethanol is already "refined", 100% fuel and in the country.

Re:Great, but (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190448)

Just to be pedantic, they could pinch a lot more than 50% gasoline out of a barrel if necessary, with the caveat that the more gasoline you extract, the more it costs to do so. These days, depolymerization/repolymerization are the norm, particularly since some Mid-East oil can be as much as half heavy residuum, and thus, your straight run gasoline would be nowhere near half of a barrel without cracking those heavy complex polymers into short chains and reassembling them....

But otherwise, yeah.

How soon til... (1)

mac_mcgrew (1007583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190016)

...this gets discredited or buried in some way by big oil? I will be surprised if this presents any real decrease in fuel prices if the oil companies have anything to say about it. And I'm sure they will

Re:How soon til... (2, Informative)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190114)

I recall an article on NPR a while ago. IIRC they were saying that one current but inefficient way to make ethanol from plant matter uses two processes using enzymes. One to break the material down to sugars the other to turn those sugars into ethanol. They were saying the current research is in the direction of having one enzyme do all of this - at reasonable temperatures. They were genetically modifying the same enzymes used to 'stone wash' denim, and IIRC they were investigating enzymes that live in undersea volcanic areas. But who knows, this company could have found another enzyme , or used selective breeding to get the traits they desire.

Basically, the NPR article made it sound like research in this area is not that extreme. It's just a matter of finding the right enzyme or bacteria.

What! GM backing cheap fuel! (4, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190028)

Whatever happened to the conspiracy theorists from my childhood, you know, the ones who always claimed "the car makers and big old buried that 100 mpg carburetor design", and the like!

I don't know the merits of this particular deal, but it never made sense to me that "car makers" really cared one way or the other about the fuel costs (and the SUV craze has borne that out...)

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (3, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190088)

Car makers like to sell.... wait for it..... cars. Despite the Illuminati Trilateral Bush 9/11 conspiracy theories that are popular on Slashdot, GM really doesn't make out that well when oil is expensive and people don't buy their cars. Case in point: Look at the profits oil companies are making right now vs. the insane losses GM is making right now.
    Now unlike the John Edwards types who look at profits as always being "evil" they are instead incredibly useful. GM would not be putting a dime into ethanol if the Oil companies WEREN'T making huge $$ right now and there was a big desire to expand alternative fuels. This is also how I knew that Greenpeace didn't really give a shit about the environment. When gas first went above $3 per gallon, they had some airhead on venting about how the evil oil companies were price gouging. If Greenpeance actually cared about the environment they would have been jumping up and down praising the high cost of gas since that would spur more investment in alternatives.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190216)

As much as I dislike government mandates, I'd like to see a mandate that all personal autos and trucks sold in the U. S. be capable of using alcohol based fuel. Then in a few years we might possibly see fuels like E85 being sold in more stations. The stuff is almost impossible to find now.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190370)

In California (IIRC), all gas is required to contain at least 10% ethanol.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190290)

Wow, you really beat the crap out of that strawman. Congratulations.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190090)

with cars lasting longer these days, people will sell their old one just because the new one gets like double the gas mileage. It's a huge selling point that makes people dump their old cars abnormally fast. So that's kinda why. As for the "OMG this can't be true" thing, you dump organic stuff in a tub, let it rot, and drain out the ethanol. Maintain an environment that the bacteria lives in and keep getting cheap organic matter and you're set. How expensive can that be?

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190206)

Put this into the equation: petrol is highly subsidized in the US: nobody in the world (eccept maybe Venezuelans and Nigerians) pay as little for gas as US citizens. So basically, whether you use public transportation, your bicycle or an SUV, you support, with your taxes, the subsidized gas. I'm sure the american car manufacturers wouldn't be able to move as many SUVs as they do today, if americans paid unsubsidized prices for the gas.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190338)

Um, where did you get that idea? Subsidized in terms of direct payments to oil companies or by tax breaks and other political favors? Direct payments no, but perhaps in other ways. One thing the US does not have is the extremely high taxes seen in the UK and Europe. In a way, the lack of these taxes is a subsidy to the consumers, etc.. By keeping the price of gas down we are encouraged to consume more.

Anyway, I really hope this isn't another 100mpg carburator story since it pisses me off that we have to pay nuts like Chavez for his oil or indirectly subsidize islamic terrorism by sending our cash to the middle east. In fact if they can pull this off, the effect on the economy ought to be great since all those dollars will stay in country instead of being exported.

Re:What! GM backing cheap fuel! (1)

nexeruza (954362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190378)

GM manufactures vehicles that get horrible gas mileage. Back when gas was $1 a gallon nobody cared, but now the trend is shifting towards foreign vehicles that get better gas mileage. GM has lost billions in the last few years because of this. By the way, oil companies are not evil or price gouging. They reap an amazing 10 cents of profit per gallon of gas sold, however the part that they love is that when the cost of oil per barell goes up they simply pass the cost onto the consumer and keep their 10 cents per gallon profit no matter what the price is. The reason they are making so much money is because consumption just keeps growing and growing. P.S. They're evil, just as evil as most every other company in this world, they're just better at it. "Shift the belief that global warming is theory rather than fact" LoL

stop the lies (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190032)

If they are telling investors it's $1/gallon, you can be sure it's more like $3 if they ever actually go into production. and why the fuck are they using CORN? it's a terrible source of ethanol

Re:stop the lies (1)

mixmatch (957776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190058)

and why the fuck are they using CORN? it's a terrible source of ethanol
Maybe because the US actually produces corn, as opposed to good candidates like sugar cane, which would require importation.

Re:stop the lies (1)

spikedvodka (188722) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190118)

how about our good friend the potato? or even -gasp- sugar beet?

people are stuck on the whole "Corn" thing, and it's stupid

Re:stop the lies (4, Interesting)

codepunk (167897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190228)

Did you consider the cost to plant, harvest and produce potatoes and beets, etc vs corn?

Potatoes cost $2017 per acre to produce.

Corn on the other hand $502 per acre to produce.

That is a rather large difference, corn production also requires next to no man power where
as the production of potatoes (root bound crops) is considerably higher.

Re:stop the lies (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190324)

as opposed to good candidates like sugar cane, which would require importation.

Yeah! Places like Florida, Hawaii, Lousiana, and Texas! Don't even get me started on the strange places that Sugar Beets come from! :-P

Re:stop the lies (1)

dunadan67 (689682) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190062)

RTFA, their process uses any type of material like corn husks or hay.

You might want to read the article. (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190092)

But I forget: this is Slashdot.

Hint: the process does not use corn.

Re:stop the lies (1)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190100)

It is corn husk, not corn. There is plenty of waste corn husk right now.

Re:stop the lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190212)

hell no, i want my goddamn tamales!!! you can have my corn husk once it has borne my tamale safely through the cooking process!!

Re:stop the lies (1)

christurkel (520220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190102)

I believe they are using corn glucose to feed the bacteria. Lots of sugars and starch to break down, Pretty good fuel but like you said, not the best. Something like sugar cane would be better.

Re:stop the lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190440)

Indirectly. FTA:

Coskata uses existing gasification technology to convert almost any organic material into synthesis gas, which is a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Rather than fermenting that gas or using thermo-chemical catalysts to produce ethanol, Coskata pumps it into a reactor containing bacteria that consume the gas and excrete ethanol.

Re:stop the lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190174)

If they are telling investors it's $1/gallon, you can be sure it's more like $3

It only has to sell for pennies less than the alternative in order to win at the game of capitalism. The difference between what it costs you and what your competitors' products cost them is pure profit.

wrong metric? (5, Insightful)

Erpo (237853) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190038)

$1/gallon would be great if it were gasoline, but one gallon of ethanol doesn't store the same amount of energy as a gallon of gas.

How many joules per dollar does that work out to compared to gas?

Or, even better, how many miles per dollar does that work out to in today's ethanol-powered cars?

Ethanol 89 MJ/gallon, Gasoline 132 MJ/gallon (4, Informative)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190162)

According to the gubmint [ornl.gov] So that's $1.48 a gallon of gas. I haven't seen that price on gas in a loooooooong time.

Re:Ethanol 89 MJ/gallon, Gasoline 132 MJ/gallon (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190434)

But, as has been noted above, that is the cost to produce a gallon of ethanol. By the time it gets to the pump you'll be paying twice that. Is ~$3.00 a gallon really all that attractive?

Re:wrong metric? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190164)

At 1$ per gallon, ethanol compares extremely favorably to gasoline. I don't think this is a full accounting of the likely cost, as others have said, but maybe it is progress nonetheless. If the volume scales well, why not use the ethanol in a fuel cell?

Re:wrong metric? (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190188)

$1/gallon would be great if it were gasoline, but one gallon of ethanol doesn't store the same amount of energy as a gallon of gas. How many joules per dollar does that work out to compared to gas?

From wikipedia...

Gasoline - 125000 BTU/gal

Ethanol - 84600 BTU/gal

... or about 67% of the energy content of gasoline. So you could compare it to a claim of $1.50/gallon gasoline.

Re:wrong metric? (2, Informative)

jeremiahbell (522050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190446)

From wikipedia...

Gasoline - 125000 BTU/gal

Ethanol - 84600 BTU/gal

... or about 67% of the energy content of gasoline. So you could compare it to a claim of $1.50/gallon gasoline.

Pure ethanol can offset the smaller BTU with more efficient combustion. An alcohol engine be ran safely at 12-14 to 1 compression raising efficiency whereas gasoline's upper limit is 10 to 1 in a production vehicle that has to be warrantied.

Re:wrong metric? (1)

ChangeOnInstall (589099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190200)

$1/gallon would be great if it were gasoline, but one gallon of ethanol doesn't store the same amount of energy as a gallon of gas.

How many joules per dollar does that work out to compared to gas?

Or, even better, how many miles per dollar does that work out to in today's ethanol-powered cars?
E85=83263 BTUs
gasoline=114000 BTUs
So 73%

Chevrolet Silverado 4WD FlexFuel (5000lb pickup truck) MPG, from fueleconomy.gov:

Gas
city 14
hwy 19
annual fuel cost: $2878

E85
city 11
hwy 14
annual fuel cost: $2999

I think that'll make a difference. Heck even if it's the same price, it's less greenhouse gas, more stability, and less (or no) dependence on you-know-where for our fuel.

Re:wrong metric? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190306)

Hmm...I wonder why no one really wants to actually use E85. You get worse mileage and spend even more on fuel. Who wants that?

Re:wrong metric? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190454)

A critical question here would be how many city/highway miles and what fueleconomy.gov is assuming for gasoline vs E85 prices...

Digging into the website, that seems to be $3.07 for gasoline and $2.40 for ethanol.

At those prices, it would be 937.5 gallons of gas, 1249.6 E85.

Figuring on 16.5 combined mpg for gasoline, that's about 15.5k miles for gas, 12.5 for E85 gives 15.6k miles.

Close enough to me. So if E85 drops to $2/gallon and Gasoline rises to $3.50, it'd flip and E85 would become substantially cheaper

$2499 for E85 vs $3281.

While expenses have certainly increased, we managed to have $1/gallon gasoline for years, so I certainly don't think that distribution would double the price of ethanol, if it can indeed be produced at the refinery for $1/gallon.

As a side effect, I can see coastal cities sticking with oil for the time being while the midwest changes to E85 left and right. After all, we're far closer to the fuel stocks and presumably the refineries. Longer shipping distances for fossil fuels combined with shorter distances for ethanol stock would make the math make sense there sooner than areas with easier access to fossil fuels via barge, pipe, or well.

Re:wrong metric? (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190202)

Here's a comment that answers that question.

http://wwia.org/sgroup/biofuel/42730/1 [wwia.org]

Apparently ethanol has 68% of the energy content of gasoline by volume
(8.9x10^7 J/gal vs. 1.3x10^8 J/gal). Therefore gasoline has 146% of the
energy content of ethanol by volume. This translates to 1 liter of gasoline
= 1.46 liters of ethanol. 46% more ethanol to equal a volume of gasoline.

Re:wrong metric? (1)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190340)

Even if it were more expensive, just the fact that this is a renewable source is already a huge improvement over gas...

Re:wrong metric? (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190344)

Technically, you *can* get the same power out with a turbo or by raising the static compression ratio. Or both. The parts are available *now* just ask any hot-rodder. Ethanol has an effectively infinite octane rating but only race cars currently take advantage of that fact. From a former mechanic... BTW this is *exactly* what the Indy and Formula cars do.

Need to make Butanol, not Ethanol (5, Informative)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190450)

Ethanol [wikipedia.org] has about 84K BTU/gallon of energy for use in a piston engine. Butanol [wikipedia.org] has about 110K BTU/gallon, compared to an average of 115K BTU/gallon for unleaded gasoline. Butanol also does not absorb water out of the air like ethanol does readily. Butanol can be made by via bacteria fermentation of biomass similar to like ethanol can. Butanol does have a problem with not vaporizing good enough for cold starts in very low temperatures, but that could be overcome with electric heater incorporated in a vehicle's fuel injector system for operation in cold weather.

Good (1)

Tilzs (959354) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190052)

Now we can get rid of the subsidies

get-ready-to-fight-the-lobbies (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190060)

Which lobbies, precisely?

But how much to consumers? (1, Interesting)

Dice (109560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190066)

Who else remembers when gas was under $1/gal at the pump?

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190126)

And even after that, when they actually used to post how much of the cost was paid as taxes. I used to see the tax charts on the pumps all the time, but for the past few years they have been conspicuously absent.

Re:But how much to consumers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190138)

Who else remembers when gas was under $1/gal at the pump?

I'm sure a lot of people do, it was only about 10 years or less ago. (Depending on where you live) The dollar also had more buying power then, since it wasn't suffering from the inflation it is now. Its only going to get worse not better, since this government decides to solve all financial problems by printing more money.

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

xWeston (577162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190172)

Even living in a place where gas is notoriously expensive (Southern California), I remember seeing it at 91 cents in 2001. Compared to about $3.50/gallon now.... almost 4x as much.

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

gc8005 (733938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190158)

I remember seeing 54.9 in ~1975.

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190180)

*raises hand*
In Martinez, CA even ~1999 IIRC.

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190192)

I remember when it was $.35/gallon. However, that was more than $1.00/gallon when adjusted for inflation.

Re:But how much to consumers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190266)

I remember when gas went over the $1 mark and it was "holy shit" expensive.

I imagine we'll be saying the same thing when gas goes over $4.

Re:But how much to consumers? (1)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190416)

I do and let me further quantify it by stating I'm in California and it was 97c at the pump in 2001.. my how we've bent over since then.

Solves one of the main problems I had (2, Insightful)

FlatEric521 (1164027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190080)

Besides cutting production costs to fire sale prices, the process avoids some key drawbacks of making ethanol from corn, company officials said. It wouldn't impact the food supply, and its net energy balance is high because the technique works almost anywhere using almost anything with great efficiency.
If it can do all that, then lets go for it. I always had reservations about corn ethanol's impact on the food supply and prices, but by using the garbage/waste products they describe, that problem goes away. Corn is central to our food economy, from sweetener (corn syrup) to feed for livestock. Little price hikes due to burning corn in our cars means bigger price hikes in so much of the rest of the food we buy. Let take ideas like these and stop burning usable food in our cars.

Startup hits "paydirt" (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190106)

process that is bacteria based instead of some of the other available methods. The bacteria processes organic material that is fed into the reactor and secretes ethanol as a waste product.
The Illinois startup patentd "a process for using bacteria to transform something into stuff" and promptly sued everyone in posession of compost.
"Hey, since they beat us to the smartphone, the only thing we could do in response was test the outer limits of stupidity," said Joey, the CIO.
Time could be running out for ambitious entremanures wanting to cash in on the USPTO, however, Joey continued:
"The USPTO asked us a question, which was 'What time is it?' They hadn't ever asked any questions previously. We fear that this question could herald an unprecedented era of consciousness at the USPTO."

OPEC Screwing Themselves (2, Interesting)

codepunk (167897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190112)

Thats right keep dropping production to drive the oil prices up. That will work
for a while yet, but now everyone is gunning for them. They drove the oil prices
up too high creating the incentives to start driving innovation to help eliminate
them from our lives.

Re:OPEC Screwing Themselves (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190230)

I hope you don't get modded troll since it's true.

Of course this is being done to keep prices down so more cars can be sold or to shift money to different players.

The OPEC's actions has made this more widely embraced then any eviromental benifits have.

Re:OPEC Screwing Themselves (1)

hanspetter (1227232) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190270)

USA is screwing istself, by dropping oil production, increasing oil imports and giving tax benefits to SUV owners.

Even G.W.Bush questions Saudi ability to raise oil supply, not because they are holding back production capacity but because the major oil field of Saudi Arabia are more than 50 years old with no new significant discoveries.

And lets not forget the CEO of Shell, saying we are near the end of cheap high-quality oil:
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/wef/article3248484.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

Not because of some evil man somewhere holding back oil production, but because of natural limits.

Re:OPEC Screwing Themselves (2, Interesting)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190398)

You don't get the feeling they're waiting for a critical point and then planning to release oil faster than ever for another 5 years, bankrupting everyone who invested in alternative energy, before lowering production again and repeating the cycle?

sure they can in a lab setting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190132)

wired magazine has become popular mechanics.

Real Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190148)

They claim to make E85 a buck cheaper that what's at the pump now. Well, a $3 gallon of gas will take you twice as far as a $2 gallon of E85. E85 has to be half the price of gas.

Re:Real Price (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190300)

Actually no you pulled that figure out of your ass, the real difference in actual mileage is
about 30%. Also one thing you need to keep in mind that the cars produced today are flex fuel
vehicles (capable of burning gasoline and or alcohol). Now say I could go to any pump in the US
and get pure alcohol for my car. What would be the real difference if I had a car that
was specifically designed to only burn alcohol. This alcohol burning car could run a
considerably higher compression ratio, smaller cooling system etc drastically increasing the
HP and efficiency....todays flex vehicles are not optimized to burn high alcohol content fuel.

Re:Real Price (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190384)

E85's fuel efficiency is nowhere near half that of gasoline. educate yourself [roadandtrack.com] you dumb muslim loving faggot.
 
getting off of foreign oil alone will be worth it. fuck those muslims in their faggot asses. fuck allah!! fuck islam!!

let's make this work! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190152)

stick it to those muslim faggots. let them sit in their desert holy land without two dimes to rub together. let them fuck each other up the ass as they praise allah and blow themselves up. fucking faggot muslims are evil and we need to let their empire waste to nothing. fuck islam!! fuck allah!!

Re:let's make this work! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190396)

That was a really rough way of putting it, but I'll bet most Americans have the exact same sentiment.

If you really want to "stick it to them", do your part. Seriously.

Reduce demand by laying off the lead foot. Get rid of the short hops to the store by making a weekly trip, preferably coupled with other errands. Buy a few shares of an alternative energy stock and put it in the IRA. Things like solar panel companies or even OLED for the ultimate lighting in 5 years. Recycle your plastic religiously.

Bottom line is the less oil used, the less oil purchased from the Middle East. It's not a Republican or Democrat issue, it's an American issue.

1.21Gigowatts (1)

gatortas (1140621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190168)

Does that mean by 2015 we will all have Mr. Fusion in our cars? Put in some garbage at night, lets some bacteria fart all night, and you got a full tank in the morning. Sweet, whats next: flying cars, self-drying jackets, auto-laced nikes and dont forget... hoverboards!

Re:1.21Gigowatts (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190250)

Using everyday garbage to produce ethanol or not, the fact remains that ethanol will never produce the 1.21 Gigawatts of electricity required to power the flux capacitor. Sure, it'll get your car to work and home again, but a nuclear reaction (plutonium fission or MrFusion) will still be required to get you to work on time if you fall 20 minutes behind,... ;-)

I secrete (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190222)

methane as a waste product, but the noise pollution is a bit of a problem.

rent seeking (1)

JDAustin (468180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190234)

Of course they want the government to heavily subsidies fueling stations...

Drop the dumb tags already (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190240)

"inthishouseweobeythelawsofthermodynamics" is cute when someone's bragging about their perpetual motion machine. It makes you look ignorant when the story is about someone converting one form of energy to another in an incrementally more efficient way than before. News flash: it's obvious that current production methods can be improved upon. What part of that smacks of breaking the laws of physics?

Brazilian Ethanol (2, Interesting)

gustgr (695173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190252)

Here in Brazil I've seen Ethanol being sold by $0.35/liter (~ $1.32/gallon) to the final consumer. I guess the ethanol industries can produce it by far less than $1/gallon. Here about 80% of our fleet of automobiles are powered by Ethanol (including my car), which is produced using sugar cane.

Nevertheless, the mass cultivation of sugar cane is destroying several other agricultures, mainly in Brazil's South and Southeast regions, besides the fact that the producers and farmers usually burn the unused bagasse (crushed sugar cane) and the crops after harvests, being responsible for Brazil's high position in the rank of top polluters.

Re:Brazilian Ethanol (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190294)

Subsidies may account for much of the price. At least it does in the United States, where it may only cost the end consumer $2-$3 dollars/gallon, but costs every taxpayer $2-$3 dollars/gallon on top of that price. I blame Iowa, but that's just me.

Then throw in taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22190274)

and it's back up to $3/gal ;-)

Re:Then throw in taxes (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190444)

It's better than the ~$3.20 here in central California.

Synthesis Gas (1)

Guppy (12314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190314)

I see the process uses Synthesis Gas (Syngas) as an intermediate, which is has long been produced on a bulk scale for industrial use (so it has been fairly well optimized for cost-efficiency) -- mostly from either coal or municipal waste. While various eco-friendly sources may make for good press and grant money, I would expect any widescale adoption of this technology to eventually migrate to the cheapest available syngas source.

Since Syngas production is a fairly mature technology, whether or not this becomes economically feasible will depend on the efficiency of their bacterial fermentation -- if the value of the EtOH produced is less than that of the syngas feedstock, then there's really no point in making the conversion.

Problem Solved (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190348)

This sounds like it is the real deal. They'll have a pilot plant running next year. If things really fall into place, we'll see commercial plants by 2011 (a safer bet is 2015).

That means that I can buy the Jeep instead of the Rabbit, and I won't have to worry about fuel costs down the road. Now I just have to wait for the flex-fuel JEEP Wrangler to come out (the Cherokee and the Commander are flex-fuel, so it's only a matter of time, right?)

P.S. You should really RTFA on this one. When I read the headline, I thought "bacteria, that's how they do it now! They've been doing it that way for thousands of years!". No, this process uses gasification to convert cellulose into CO and H2 (as all cellulosic operations have done) and then uses bacteria to convert the CO and H2 into ethanol (conventional cellulosic processes use enzymes to do this; so do the bacteria, but this way the bacteria make the enzyme in the reactor).

Good ol' boys in Appalachia do this all the time (3, Funny)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190358)

I know some good ol' boys in Eastern Tennessee who make ethanol from corn mash for less than $1 a gallon. Been doin' it for decades.

The stupidity of consumers (2, Insightful)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190410)

From TA:

"Even if you produce it county by county, you still need an infrastructure," he said. "People aren't going to go to some remote location for fuel."

This has not been my experience. I have met countless stupid people who will drive 20 miles to save 2 cents per gallon on gas. People would probably drive 50 miles to save 5 cents per gallon of gas.

If this stuff was sufficiently cheap, I'll bet there are people who would drive for hours just to fill up and save themselves $20 at the pump.

You're ignoring the carbon footprint (1)

bornwaysouth (1138751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190428)

Interesting to read the US point of view (which is strongly entrenched in my country too). Gimme cheap petrol. End of story.

Hasn't global warming sunk in yet? I know it's only been 2 years since it's been allowed to be freely discussed, but hey guys. wake up!

I'm a cynical aging chemist. I expect this research to be mostly hype with some mod of the bacteria approach being pushed. But they have two important claims. (1) They are converting junk carbon (not food carbon) into a petrol replacement. (2)That carbon is atmospheric carbon.

So more power to their elbow as the saying goes. To turn research into a product, you need a lot of hype.

Thanks for nothing. (1, Flamebait)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22190438)

The push for ethanol is part of this whole green wacko thing, and as with most of the other plans currently being implemented, will eventually hurt us. The demand for crops to fuel ethanol manufacturing is already driving up the price of food. Now we have to compete with our cars for food! What good is it to be able to drive cheaply to the store if you can't afford to buy any food once you get there?
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