Biofuel

Critical List: Iran could block oil shipping; presidential candidates can criticize ethanol in Iowa

If America and its allies put sanctions on Iran, the Iranian navy could block the Strait of Hormuz, an important channel for international oil shipments. Have Republicans ensured the death of Keystone XL by pushing Obama to decide one way or another about the pipeline? The EPA is scaling back requirements for cellulosic ethanol in the coming years. Presidential candidates are allowed to criticize ethanol now — even in Iowa. These NASA photos document the growth of the Athabasca tar sands pits in Alberta.

E. coli can now make three kinds of fuel out of grass

Switchgrass, Dubya’s favorite biofuel feedstock, is back in the news. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered E. coli – the same bug that is spoiling the lives of raw cookie dough eaters everywhere — to transform switchgrass into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The secret sauce of their solution is the malleability of E. coli genetics, which allowed researchers to add three new metabolic pathways to the bug. The engineered bugs can break down tough cellulose fibers and ferment the resulting sugars into fuels. Without the bacteria, this used to be an energy- and …

Airlines race to be first to fly with biofuel

One day, maybe, planes will be able fly on electricity alone, but until then, the best chance they have to get off gasoline is to switch over to biofuels. And that's actually happening! Over the summer, two biofueled flights made it across the Atlantic, and now Alaska Airlines is pushing an ambitious commercial biofuel flight program. Last week, the company flew across the country with a fuel that was 20 percent biofuel. The particular biofuel they used can come from algae, from chicken fat, or from a variety of other sources. There's also a growing amount of healthy competition among …

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 …

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 …

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!

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