These days, ethanol is praised as the whiz-bang cure-all for our energy ills. And maybe all the sweet talk will cause this “new” fuel to forget that America dumped her for oil in the early 20th century. Oil’s just so … ew all of a sudden. We may finally be ready to return to our first love, an energy source that’s been by our side in some form or another since Neolithic times. Oil was too high-maintenance and demanding, anyway.
And ethanol’s a much better match … right? Or maybe biodiesel is the one? Or vegetable oil? Hemp? Turkey guts?
For all the hype, most people barely know enough about biofuels to drop a line or two at a cocktail party. What is ethanol, and how’s it different from biodiesel, and where does fry grease come in? Are there cars that can run on this stuff, and who’s making them, and where can they fuel up? Who sells it, who makes money off it, and why’s it such a political darling? Does “cellulosic” ethanol actually exist in the wild? What’s the big deal with Brazil? And does Willie Nelson really run his bong on biodiesel?
We’re here to help. Biofuels — derived from recently living organisms or their metabolic byproducts, aka plants, animals, and poop — are back, big time. Here’s your two-week crash course.
- How the world got addicted to oil, and where biofuels will take us.
- The numbers behind ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel in the U.S.
- How experts measure the energy balance of alternative fuels.
- Cellulosic ethanol may be coming sooner than you think.
- A look at the impacts of biofuels production, in the U.S. and the world.
- How cash and corporate pressure pushed ethanol to the fore.
- It’s time for a real “food vs. fuel” debate.
- What Brazil can teach the U.S. about energy and ethanol.
- As its neighbors back biofuels, Central America gears up for business.
- Three perspectives on the biofuels debate.
- To fulfill its environmental promises, biofuel policy needs a kick in the pants.
- Toward a community-owned, decentralized biofuel future.
- An interview with biofuels naysayer David Pimentel.
- An environmental-justice advocate responds to the biofuels boom.
- What we’ve learned from the biofuels series.
- Using grease and other goodies, small producers are making a big difference.
- Grassroots biodiesel operations contend with industrial sand-kickers.
- How a grassroots biodiesel group can show the way for others.
- An interview with Seattle biodiesel distributor Dan Freeman.
- An interview with Greasecar founder Justin Carven.
- Richard Branson chats about embracing ethanol and slashing airplane emissions.
- Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla chats about the promise of ethanol.
- Biofuel pioneer Lee Lynd points the way toward a “carbohydrate economy.”
- An interview with Missouri farmer and ethanol co-op member Brian Miles.
- A biodiesel entrepreneur in Argentina spreads seeds of wisdom.
- Grains become fuel at the world’s first cellulosic ethanol demo plant.
- An interview with Mary Beth Stanek, General Motors energy director.
- Find out which cars can run on ethanol and biodiesel.
- All the resources you need to hop on the biofuels bandwagon.
- A handy biofuels glossary, and videos to boot.
- The what, where, and why of E85 ethanol.
- A lighthearted look at biofuels through time.
- The strangest biofuel sources you’ve never heard of.
- The top 10 reasons to give a hoot about biofuels.
- Check out the latest entries in the celeb-biofuels biz.
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Stories in this series:
They may be hyped as the way of the future, but biofuels already count as a juggernaut. Supported by the government and embraced by the Big Three automakers, ethanol is surging in the United States. Biodiesel, meanwhile, is roaring ahead …
The way most people talk about biofuels, you’d think they were a brand-new invention. But using natural products for fuel is an idea as old as the hills, as this highly selective timeline demonstrates. Mid-1800s: Soap-makers begin to transesterify vegetable …
America devours oil like no other country in the world. Representing 5 percent of the global population, the country consumes fully a quarter of the world’s oil. Every year, to move ourselves and our goods around, we burn 140 billion …
Once upon a time, we were going to make a beautiful map for you, showing all the available biofuel pumps in the country. Then we realized: hey, there are already beautiful maps out there. Not to mention books. And articles. …
Going bio with your auto doesn’t mean you have to invest in some strange contraption your neighbors will stare at. In fact, upward of 4 million cars currently on the road in the United States are already compatible with E85, …
Nothing but blue skies from now on? Photo: house.gov Great news! We can finally scratch “driving less” off our list of ways to curb global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil! Biofuels will soon not only replace much …
If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve probably heard of E85 — yet don’t have the slightest idea what it is. Or if you do have an idea, it’s, well, slight. But never fear, friends and neighbors: We’ve got …
… got all liquored on that road house corn … — Tom Waits, “Gun Street Girl” Before it became widely used as a car fuel, ethanol was just grain liquor — and the federal government was not particularly kind to …
If you live in a city of any size, you’ve likely seen them out there: boxy little ’80s-era foreign cars, bumpers adorned with pro-ecology and anti-war slogans, and references to “grease.” Even the fumes they emit may smell different: literally …