Biofuel

Climate & Energy

Critical List: Republicans still want Keystone XL; Obama ad focuses on energy

The State Department denied TransCanada’s permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama agreed, saying that he was rejecting the permit because Republicans wouldn’t stop trying to force the pipeline forward. Republicans are responding to this by looking into legislation that would force the pipeline forward. They’re also asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come testify on yesterday’s decision next week. House Republicans ALSO want to promote ethanol derived from … natural gas and coal. And they want to classify it as renewable fuel. What? It’s ethanol!

Critical List: Shale gas could squash renewables; scientists fiddle with photosynthesis

New York City promises to double the percentage of waste diverted from landfills within the next five years. Increasing shale gas production could squash renewable energy development. The Obama administration released a draft plan for protecting the country's oceans. Scientists are fiddling with photosynthesis in order to make biofuel.

The man whose algae could take over the world

If life is really a disaster movie in which humanity is wiped off the face of the earth, J. Craig Venter will probably be the hubristic genius who gets us there. The man sequenced the human genome in like three years, and now he's focused on the genetic possibilities of algae. The goal is to program those little cells to produce biofuels. Here's his pitch, as told to Scientific American: Everybody is looking for a naturally occurring alga that is going to be a miracle cell to save the world, and after a century of looking, people still haven’t found it. We hope we’re different. The [genetic] tools give us a new approach to being able to rewrite the genetic code and get cells to do what we want them to do. Eek! Mutant algae!

Cooking grease is now so valuable that people are stealing it

Who says that clean energy policies don't create jobs? The boom in biodiesel has created not only a new commodities market in cooking grease, but a new business opportunities for security professionals -- not to mention providing work for thieves and black-market fences, which is a kind of job? That’s because fryer oil is now such a valuable resource that people are straight-up stealing it. In recent years, a couple of state governments have realized that cooking grease has a use as a biofuel source and have regulated grease collection. At the same time, though, some less-than-savory characters have realized the grease’s value as well and are boosting it, costing some small rendering businesses losses on the order of $750,000 per year. And so the world comes to this impasse, as described by The New York Times: The grease is often stored in black Dumpsters that reek of death, in back alleys, which is why pickups usually take place in the middle of the night.

Critical List: Ghost octopi in the Antarctic; without ethanol subsidies, gas prices rise

The creatures discovered living in thermal vents near Antarctica -- ghost octopi, limpets, yeti crabs -- are le awesome. Two major solar industry groups are merging in order to focus on state-level policies. With ethanol subsidies gone, gas will cost more.

Critical List: Judge nixes California’s low-carbon fuel standard; mystery foam attacks England

A federal judge put the kibosh on California's low-carbon fuel standard, which favors fuels that create fewer emissions to make and which, according to the judge, discriminates against out-of-state fuel producers. On carbon credit markets, credits cost way less than they should. China is moving forward on a plan to build a gigantic dam on the Yangtze River. Mystery foam attacks a town in northern England. It's sort of like The Blob, only fluffy. How to take composting to the metaphysical plane.