With the situation in Libya causing a spike in fuel prices worldwide there’s some good biofuel-related news out of the U.S. Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) that could help to reduce many countries’ dependence on oil imports. For the first time, BESC researchers have succeeded in producing isobutanol directly from cellulosic plant matter using bacteria. Being a higher grade of alcohol than ethanol, isobutanol holds particular promise as a gasoline replacement as it can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value similar to gasoline.

Due in large part to its natural defenses to being chemically dismantled, cellulosic biomass like corn stover and switchgrass, which is abundant and cheap, has been much more difficult to utilize than corn or sugar cane. This means that producing biofuel from such biomass involves several steps, which is more costly than a process that combines biomass utilization and the fermentation of sugars to biofuel into a single process.

Building on earlier work at UCLA in creating a synthetic pathway for isobutanol production, the BESC researchers managed to achieve such a single-step process by developing a strain of Clostridium cellulolyticum, a native cellulose-degrading microbe that could synthesize isobutanol directly from cellulose.

This sounds good.

  1. Uncle Patso says:

    # 5 EnemyOfTheState said:

    “Why do I find a vast majority of the documentation for this process only on “green” or “hobby” web sites and not published after peer review in recognized/established scientific journals?”

    The gizmag article is taken from an article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. From Wikipedia:

    “AEM has been evaluated as one of the top 100 journals over the past 100 years, in the fields of biology and medicine.”

    “AEM publishes peer reviewed scientific articles […]” (Emphasis added.)

    – – – – – – – – – –

    # 21 deowll said:

    “[…] This is cutting food production to make fuel for cars. […]”

    Not entirely. One of the possible feedstocks mentioned is Corn stover. Back to Wikipedia:

    “Corn stover consists of the leaves and stalks of maize (Zea mays ssp. mays L.) plants left in a field after harvest and consists of the residue: stalk; the leaf, husk, and cob remaining in the field following the harvest of cereal grain.”

    So at least part of the feedstock could come from food production leftovers.

    The question I have is how long will it take to produce significant quantities? Like most of the “WOWEE” and “just around the corner” stuff I used to read about in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, it will actually take 5 to 15 years to get the infrastructure in place before anything meaningful nationally can happen. If it happens at all, which it usually doesn’t.

  2. Dallas says:

    #29 Sure. Pray you won’t run out of juice is a typical Republican/Teabagger loonie solution borrowed from the Climate Change debate.

  3. t0llyb0ng says:

    North Dakota’s farmland pretty much sucks but fabulous reservoirs of oil have been found thereunder, especially in the northwest, & a massive drilling boom is underway.

    Here are a few other observations:

    footprint is one word

    much better then from corn sb than

    forest for the tree’s sb trees

    Their are solutions sb There are

    noncompetitive is one word

    which one’s actually have promise sb ones

    lawmakers is one word

    Electric cars is the future sb are the

    lifeblood is one word

    As if its still a luxury sb it’s

    [Somebody had to do it.]

  4. Mr, Ed - the Imitation (accept no original) says:


    Don’t want “Alternative Fuels” – want Cars the NEVER NEED TO GO TO A GAS STATION – EVER !!!

    Hey I can relate. I want a beer that NEVER NEEDS A BATHROOM – EVER !!!

  5. BubbaRay says:

    Just saw a TV ad for the new, improved higher range Chevy Volt. How did they get the higher driving range? They put a gasoline generator in it. How efficient is that? Electric cars won’t be much use until battery technology improves greatly.


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