18 February 2010

Cellulosic ethanol

Haven't we been here before? Ah, well.

The latest claim of a breakthrough in the development of cellulosic ethanol comes from Denmark. Two competing enzyme producers said this week that they have a product that turns straw into fuel, in a way that will allow for commercial production in about a year. Genencor, a division of Danisco, announced Accellerase DUET on Monday. But then a rival in the same country, Novozymes AS, said on Tuesday something to the effect of "we can do that too!"

Straw, that is, instead of corn. If fuel can be obtained from straw or other non-foodstuffs in a commercially practicable way that doesn't rely upon government redirection of funds from elsewhere: that will be a great move forward for the sustainability of our civilization, and for our ability to live in peace with one another.

It will vindicate Rumplestiltski's old aspiration to find a seamstress who could turn, or strictly spin, straw into gold. Now I hear the themesong from "The Beverly Hillbillies" in my head. Black gold, Texas tea. But of course one good thing about this is that it would discomfort some of the billionaires who made their money roughly the way the Clampetts did.

Yet such breakthrough announcements have come to nothing before, so it is difficult to avoid cynicism about this one.

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.