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Biofuel

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Ethanol is making crap food more expensive than ever

If you're a fan of Uno's pizza, O'Charley's, White Castle, or, god forbid, P.F. Chang's, you have only our government's stubborn love of ethanol subsidies to blame for the increasing cost of your favorite meals, report the gumshoes at Nation's Restaurant News. If you’re not a fan, though, don’t go celebrating with a delicious home-cooked meal just yet. It's actually even worse if you're buying your food at the grocery store and cooking at home. But even though the diversion of corn for ethanol use is contributing to higher food costs throughout the country, the restaurant industry is not passing …

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Amtrak using beef-based biofuel

Like Joe Biden, Amtrak now runs on beef tallow. America's rail company just replaced 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel in one of its 3,200-horsepower locomotives with biofuel derived from the stuff, and reports that the experiment resulted in no ill effects for the train, and lower than usual emissions. That doesn't mean using beef-based biofuels is a good idea -- even conventional plant-based biodiesel is only somewhat better than fossil fuels from the standpoint of carbon and other environmental impacts. Running all those calories through a cow first is just kinda dumb. But hey, if there's tallow lying around that …

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America uses more corn for fuel than for food

In America, most corn is no longer meant for eating, at least by humans. Only 20 percent of all the gazillions of ears of corn the United States grows make it into a person's mouth as corn. The rest goes to feed animals (which do make it into people's mouth as beef and other meats) and to brew corn ethanol. In one year, we used more than 5 billion bushels of corn for ethanol, which we don't even use that much of! But it's our corn, and we can do what we want with it, right? Well, a new report …

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Talking motorbike runs on poop. That is all.

Here's a bike that runs on biogas from human poo, writes messages in the air, plays music, and features a talking toilet. Is it even worth making jokes about this? Is it even POSSIBLE? The bike is made by Japanese toilet manufacturer TOTO, and thankfully it does not appear to be headed for mass production -- it's a publicity tool to help TOTO raise environmental awareness. The company hopes its green initiatives will help reduce CO2 emissions in bathrooms by 50 percent by 2017 (no word on methane emissions). The bike is intended to draw attention to these environmental goals, …

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Wall Street and ethanol cause starvation, say scientists

Today's supervillains are soooo boring. If only they'd wear tights and touch entrapped damsels’ hair in a way that made us uncomfortable, we'd be up for patriotically pistol-whipping them, Captain America style. Instead we find out that Wall Street and ethanol -- a diffuse network of trading computers and a colorless inebriant, respectively -- are the reason billions are going hungry in the developing world. How are we supposed to launch a hideously expensive vendetta-war against that? The takeaway from Brandon Keim's excellent writeup of a study conducted by researchers at New England Complex Systems Institute is that if you …

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Company makes fuel from wood using nothing but water

A company called Renmatix says it can make ethanol from wood and woody biomass using nothing but water. If they're right -- and they just cut the ribbon on an R&D facility in Pennsylvania in order to find out -- it could mean the unlocking of a vast reserve of biomass previously untouched by the cleantech industry. The cellulose in trees and other woody biomass is so tough that its has so far been impossible to turn it into ethanol at a commercially viable scale -- despite a congressional mandate for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Renmatix's process gets around …

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Navy Secretary says getting off fossil fuels is just like ditching sail power

Ray Mabus, Secretary of the U.S. Navy, has a refreshing historical perspective on the Navy's efforts to end its dependence on our increasingly expensive and environmentally destructive supplies of oil. From a speech he recently gave at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0: In the 1850s, we went from sail to coal. In the early 19th century, we went from coal to oil, and in the 1950s, we pioneered nuclear. Every single time, there were people that said, “Can’t do it. You’re changing one very certain means of transportation for one that is not that certain,” and every time, those …

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Critical List: Energy Dept. picks more winners; natural gas boom comes to Ohio

The Department of Energy, always picking winners, you know? The first Quadrennial Technology Review, to be released today, favors technologies that could come into commercial use in 10 years — i.e. consumer goods you can spend money for. This could mean DOE favors EVs over new clean energy technologies. This company, Renmatix, will probably make it under the wire, though. It says it has the right technology to make commercially viable biofuels from biomass and just opened a plant to forward development of the technique. The natural gas boom comes to Ohio. Although Beijing usually gets a bad rap on …

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The myth of the free market

Cross-posted from Climate Progress. The political reaction to the Solyndra scandal has been laughably devoid of both short-term and long-term historical perspective. In an attempt to exploit a political opportunity, many House Republicans are railing against government investments in the renewable energy sector. However, those same politicians requested millions of dollars for cleantech projects in their own states just a year or two before. This bad case of amnesia stretches far beyond the last two years. Apparently, many in Congress have forgotten about the last 100 years of government investments in oil, gas, and nuclear -- all of which have …